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Revelation 10

Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & PsalmsHengstenberg's Commentary

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The Interlude in Ch. Revelation 10:1 to Revelation 11:13

The seven angels with the seven trumpets form a prophetic picture in itself complete, bringing matters fully to an end, as was the case also with the preceding group of the six seals; and after it an entirely new beginning follows, the vision of the three enemies of the kingdom of God. In this section Revelation 10:1 to Revelation 11:13 forms a sort of episode; and ch. Revelation 11:14 connects itself with Revelation 9:21.

The prophet sees a strong angel descending from heaven, Revelation 10:1. First by a symbolical action—namely, having his right foot planted on the sea, the left on the earth—and then by an express word, coupled with an oath, this angel announces, that under the trumpet of the seventh angel the full and perfect realization of all the promises made to the church concerning her final victory over the world and the kingdom of glory should be accomplished, Revelation 10:2-7. Then he gives to the prophet a little book of painful contents, which should enable him and the church to bear that first business with a courageous spirit. [Note: The correct view of this connection between the first business of the angel and the second is found in Vitringa: “This vision is of a consolatory kind, as in it the Holy Spirit sought to fit and prepare John, and in him the church, for the new revelation, contained in the little book, concerning some new and very severe calamity that was to befal the church, and of which much is said in the subsequent part of this prophecy; so that what was to come might be borne with a patient and composed mind, and with the experience of much consolation.”] He swallows the little book, and is thereby put in a capacity for uttering the prophecy which follows in ch. Revelation 11:1-13, and by which the contents of the little book are made known. The church—alas! that it should be so—has become subject to the power of the world, not only externally, but partly also internally, connected with it and leagued together for the persecution of the true confessors of the faith. The kernel, however, remains unhurt, and the elect abide stedfast under the trial. Those only who stand in a loose relation to the church shall fall under it. Whoever in the church has, to him it shall then be given, and only from him who has not shall be taken away what he has. Through the whole course of the external and internal pressure of the world on the church, the work of witnessing proceeds by the operation of the grace of God. And the reformation of the church, prepared by this, has been ever and anon brought about by means of God’s visitations of judgment. By these it is effected, that the blessed seed scattered by the faithful germinates, and grows and brings forth fruit.

The interlude here between the sixth and seventh trumpets has its correspondence in the vision of the seven seals, which is united with this into a pair, and in common with it is of a preparatory and introductory character, in the episode between the sixth and seventh seals, ch. 7. There, too, the look is turned from the world, with the fates of which, according to the historical starting-point of the book, its chief scenes have alone to do, to the church; as is the case also here. How does it go with the church of God during the frightful judgments which come upon the world? This question is answered in the whole of the seventh chapter. But, while there the discourse is of the state of the church under the plagues which desolate the world, the question that is answered here, having immediate reference to the two last verses of ch. 9, is: How does the church stand related to the corruption of the world that lies in wickedness, and which proves itself to be irremediable even under the severest judgments of God? To this question the answer is of a less joyful kind than to the first. There the bright side of the church’s future is presented to our view; but here it is the dark side; though still even in the night the stars appear shining. It goes otherwise in the church of the Lord, in consequence of the strong pressure of the world on it, than could well have been imagined by those who have not known from their own experience the weakness of the flesh as to its dread of suffering, and the deceitfulness of the heart; who have not obtained any deep insight into the mystery of sin. For, even in the church much apostacy and corruption discover themselves, and there too is the agency of God to be displayed in executing judgment. But the pain this was fitted to occasion is softened, a balsam is prepared for the wound at the very first by the appearance of the rainbow around the strong angel’s head in ch. Revelation 10:1; and not only so, but against the apostacy a reaction takes place in the midst of the church, which is strengthened by God, and brought to glory, though not without and reverses; so that the judgment is not a consuming one, but only prepares the way for the operations of grace. When this manifests itself, then the distinction between the world and the church properly appears. The powers that lay bound in the latter are by the judgment of God set free. Of the world it is said in ch. Revelation 9:20-21, the two verses that form the transition to this interlude, “And the rest of the men that were not killed by these plagues, repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship demons,” etc. Here, on the other hand, it is said with manifest reference to that starting-point of the whole, “And the rest were frightened, and gave glory to the God of heaven.” Thus we obtain a firm foundation for the consolatory announcement of the strong angel, that the completion of the mystery of God infallibly approaches, and which was fitly made to precede the representation of the facts, that were so much fitted to beget despair in respect to that completion. For how could a church that had become so much identified with the world, obtain a final victory over the world! It is announced in reply, first, that the worldly admixture is not a total one, reaching to the innermost source of life, and then, that the judgment of God shall purge it out.

Verse 1

Revelation 10:1. And I saw another strong angel come down from heaven, clothed with a cloud, and the rainbow upon his head; and his face like the sun, and his feet like pillars of fire. The other angel (understood most easily in relation to the angels who blew the trumpets), can only be Christ. For everything that is said to characterize this other angel applies only to God, who can be no angel, and to the reflection of his glory, Christ. We cannot suppose with Züllig, that Jehovah had communicated to the angel his proper insignia, for these are not communicable. It would, indeed, have been contrary to the divine word, “I will not give my glory to another”—a breaking down of the limits between the Creator and his creature, for which no analogy is to be found in the whole of Scripture. It must, at any rate, have been very carefully and expressly pointed out, that the glory was altogether of a borrowed kind. But there is no trace whatever of this. Further, the operations of the angel belong only to Christ. The planting of the right foot on the sea, and of the left on the earth, as certainly belongs to Christ, as it is to him and not to an angel that God has put in subjection the future world ( Hebrews 2:5), as certainly as the dominion of the world must be possessed by the Lord and his Christ (ch. Revelation 11:15). It would have been presumption for a created angel to come forth thus. Nothing but the oath of God, or of one connected with him by oneness of nature, can secure for the church, what requires here to be secured for her. Scripture never attributes to angels such depth of insight into the divine decrees, that their authority could be a perfectly secure one for the church—comp. 1 Peter 1:12 and Revelation 5:3. It would have been somewhat different if the angel had made the oath merely in the name of God, or had related it as having been made by God; as in Genesis 22:16. And even there it is not an angel that speaks, but the angel of the Lord: “By myself have I sworn, saith the Lord.” Here, too, the suitableness of the result is founded on the person swearing; the angel swears in his name; and of such an oath, made by a created angel, Scripture furnishes no example. [Note: Vitringa: “Does the hope of the church rest on the oath of a created angel? Is it the part of a created angel to swear, that the words of prophecy and the promises given to the church shall he fulfilled? Assuredly, if the hope of the church shall stand unmoved, it cannot he sustained excepting by the faithfulness and oath of that very person, to whose nature failure is not incident, and which of itself is able to perform whatever it swears to—and this can be said only of God. Wherefore God swears by himself ( Hebrews 5:7) when his object was to confirm the faith of his people regarding what he had promised in the Old Testament, and shew the unchangeableness of his council.”] Then, in the original passage, Daniel 12:7, it is not a created angel, but Michael, the Logos, who stands upon the waters of Tigris, as the angelhere upon the sea and earth, and swears. Finally, the reference to Christ has on its side the analogy of ch. Revelation 7:2, where he appears likewise under the name of another angel. There he comes forth for the consolation of his church, which was troubled at the prospect of the judgments which were to pass over the world; here he meets the disquieting doubts regarding the completion of the kingdom of God and its final victory over the world, which were awakened by the thought of the worldly spirit having gained so much in the church itself. There he consoles the church, when ready to faint on account of her participation in the world’s plagues, and here, in like manner, when ready to faint on account of her participation in the world’s sins. What seems to be against this angel being Christ, has already nearly all been met at ch. Revelation 7:2, comp. also ch. Revelation 18:1, where Christ is designated in a similar manner. The conclusion: “The angel swears here by the Creator, therefore he is himself a creature,” is a very hasty one. The mere circumstance of Christ appearing here as an angel precluded his swearing by himself, and required that he should swear by him who had sent him and who was represented by him. Were such reasoning sound, from how much of what Christ spake in his state of humiliation (with which his appearance here is on a line) might conclusions be drawn against his true Godhead! But why should Christ not have been expressly named? why is he so vaguely designated? Because the Seer will only relate what he saw, and deliver to his reader the sacred riddle, which had been presented to himself, and which he had himself solved. He acted quite similarly at the appearance of Christ in ch. 1.

Christ did not need to come down from heaven, on account of what he had to say to John, for John was in heaven. But the reason for the coming down is given in Revelation 10:2. He comes down to plant his foot upon the sea and the earth, and by this act to indicate his approaching possession of both. This was the proper position for the uttering of the oath. For the oath delivers a commentary on that symbolical action, and discloses its meaning. There is no necessity for supposing that John looked down from heaven upon earth. The most natural view is, that from out of the earth he saw the strong angel coming down. John’s being in heaven is to be understood positively and not exclusively. According to John 3:3, Christ also was at once in heaven and on the earth. Where the earth presents anything to be seen, there John was on the earth, us in ch. John 12:18, he stands on the sand of the sea, and in ch. John 17:3, he finds himself in the wilderness. But where, again, anything was to be seen in heaven, he is in heaven. Such a double-sided existence, in a certain degree, belongs to all believers; their citizenship is in heaven, Php_3:20 , and still they behold the doings of God upon the earth, Psalms 46:9. The mind is in a sickly state when the eye is shut in regard to the operations of God upon the earth. The being in heaven, with John, existed only potentially.

On the cloud, as a foreshadowing of judgment, see on ch. Revelation 1:7. Remarks like this, “By the cloud the brightness of the angel was not only indicated, but also in a fitting manner veiled,” or this, “covered with a cloud on account of the extreme splendour, which blinds the eyes,” are alien to the scriptural mode of representation, in which the symbol of the cloud has but one well-established meaning. The object of the judgment foreshadowed by the cloud is primarily the world. To it more immediately belongs the threatening symbolically announced in the cloud. On it first of all does this cloud, big with furious storms, discharge what it contains. For the completion of the judgment on the world is in Revelation 10:2-7 set before the view of the church, whose completion is inseparably bound up with that. Still, we must not stand simply at this. The appearance is prefigurative of the whole contents of the interlude, as Bengel remarks: “In such appearances we must keep the attire of the person who appears, and the word spoken by him in connection with each other. Thus the attire of Christ in ch. 1, and what he presently afterwards caused John to write to the churches, throw light mutually on each other.” All that occurs in the interlude of judicial agency must stand in connection with the cloud. But in ch. Revelation 11:13 we read of a great judgment, which alights on the degenerate church. We must therefore contemplate the cloud, charged with lightning, thunder, and hail, with mingled feelings. It is at once a call to joy, and an occasion for awakening fear and trembling, exciting the cry, Woe is me, and Lord have mercy on us.

But the wound which the cloud makes is healed by the rainbow (Luther, following a false reading: a rainbow; there is only one spiritual rainbow, as there is only one whose head the rainbow can adorn)—the symbol of divine grace returning after wrath—of the church to which alone belong the declarations, “I kill and I make alive,” and “he wounds and he binds up, he smites and his hands heal.” Such things belong exclusively to the church, while the cloud is common to it with the world. Even when there is much sin with us, there is much more grace with God, which brings forth the lovely symbol of the rainbow to cheer the church when terrified by the frightful cloud, and ready to faint under a sense of sin. The rainbow on the head of the angel at the outset pledges to the church the completion of God’s mystery, as is expressly promised in Revelation 10:7; pledges to her what is promised in ch. Revelation 11:1-13, the stedfastness of the faithful, in the time of temptation, the salutary, and not, as in the world, destructive operation of the divine judgments.

The face like the sun marks the angel as the possessor of the glory of the Lord—comp. on ch. Revelation 1:16; Hebrews 1:3; 2 Corinthians 4:6. The face like the sun calls aloud to the church: “Beware of him, and obey his voice, provoke him not; for he will not pardon your transgressions, because my name is in him. But if thou wilt indeed obey his voice, and do all that I speak, then will I be an enemy to thine enemies, and an adversary to thine adversaries,” ( Exodus 23:21-22). The preservation of the divine glory, as it was imaged by the face like the sun, is the completion of God’s judgment on the world, and also the judgment on the church, and the manifestation of grace toward her. For in the forgiveness of sins the glory and holiness of God, his absolute being, shine forth in the clearest and purest manner, according to Hosea 11:9, “I will not execute the fierceness of mine anger, I will not again destroy Ephraim (as formerly Sodom), for I am God and not a man, I am the Holy in thy midst, and do not go into the city”—am no son of man, like those who walk upon the earth, and go out and in at the gates of the city. The moderation of the judicial punishments inflicted on those who are called after God’s name appears there as a manifestation of the holiness of God. He whose face beams like the sun, the Holy, is free from all human passions, which always keep the eye stiffly directed to only one side.

Two things are said of the feet, their pillar-like and their fiery appearance. As the latter characteristic is manifestly of a polemical nature—comp. what was said on the corresponding phrase, “like clear brass,” in ch. Revelation 1:15, Revelation 2:18 so the other also, the pillar-like appearance, must be understood in a polemical sense. It may be that as the fire images the consuming character of God’s punitive righteousness, so the designation as pillars brings out the massive character, which renders it so crushing to all upon whom it is exercised. But the view of Bengel appears preferable, “to hold to his post in an invincible manner where he plants his feet,” “the immoveable stedfastness of the heavenly conqueror against all the resistance of his enemies.” The post-like standing suits quite well in Revelation 10:2, and at ch. Revelation 3:12, where also unchangeable stedfastness is indicated by the pillars.

The dark cloud, threatening fire, forms the beginning, fife itself the close. In the pillar of cloud and fire also we have the two combined together, Exodus 13:21. The two there also have a threatening character, and symbolize the Lord’s judgments upon his enemies. The symbol of the Lord’s presence exhibited a bright character for Israel only while they continued faithful.

Verses 1-11

THE SEVEN TRUMPETS (Ch. Revelation 8:2 to Revelation 11:19 )

Introductory Remarks

The distribution of this group is as follows.

Revelation 8:2, “And I saw the seven angels, who stand before God, and to them were given seven trumpets,” supplies, as it were, the place of a superscription. It presents immediately before our eyes, those from whom all action proceeds in the great drama that follows. Next comes in the vision of the incense-offering angel, a kind of prelude Revelation 8:3-5. Then begins the work of the seven angels. The plagues of the four first, Revelation 8:6-12, alight upon the earth, the sea, the rivers, the heavens, and thus compose together one whole, inasmuch as they embrace the entire territory of creation. The three last trumpets are likewise bound up together. After the four first have been brought to a close, they are announced in ch. Revelation 8:13 by an eagle, which proclaims a threefold woe on the inhabitants of the earth. The fifth trumpet and the first woe is contained in ch. Revelation 9:1-12; the sixth trumpet and the second woe in Revelation 8:13-13, on which follows an episode in Revelation 10:1 to Revelation 11:13, so that the concluding formula is only given in ch. Revelation 11:14. Then comes at the close of the whole the seventh trumpet and the third woe, in ch. Revelation 11:15-19.

The three last trumpets, by being designated as the three last woes, are represented relatively to the four first, as greatly the more important and frightful; and in accordance with this is the much more lengthened description that is given of them. The fifth trumpet, or the first woe, takes up almost twice as much space as is devoted to the whole of the first four together. Only in the third woe, the seventh trumpet, do we find a less extended description than might have been expected; the reason of which shall afterwards be considered.

Again, on the first six trumpets in relation to the seventh—leaving out of view the point of some of them belonging to the woes—there is impressed the character of the half and incomplete. In the first four trumpets the third part of the sphere on which the injury alight is uniformly mentioned. The locusts under the fifth trumpet torment, according to ch. Revelation 9:5; Revelation 9:10, five months, the five being the signature of the half and incomplete, in contrast to the last trumpet and the last woe, when the mystery of God is finished, which he has revealed to his servants, the prophets, ch. Revelation 10:7. In the sixth trumpet the third part of men is again killed.

The following remarks may serve for defining the circle within which the seven trumpets move. The historical starting-point of the whole book comes first into consideration. The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which John imparts, was occasioned by a severe oppression of the Christian church through the heathen world-power. Accordingly, we expect such a revelation as will bring destruction to this hostile power, but salvation to the church. Then, the introductory vision of the angel with frankincense, in ch. Revelation 8:3-5, is to be taken into account. The fundamental thought here is, that God will hear the fervent prayers of his struggling and afflicted church, and cause his judgments to go forth against the world. Hence, only such things can be suitable here as are salutary to the church, destructive to the world; and the expositions, which discover in the group persecutions of Christians, heresies (that of Arius, for example, whom many understand most strangely under the falling star in ch. Revelation 8:10), mendicant friars, etc., are at the outset excluded. Finally, the whole in the seven trumpets runs out into the fact, that the kingdom of the world has become the Lord’s and his anointed, ch. Revelation 11:15. But the six first trumpets are already even outwardly marked as preparatory to the seventh. They could, therefore, only indicate approaches of the dominion of the Lord and his anointed, precursory manifestations of power on their part in respect to it—as Bengel justly remarks, though unfortunately, without afterwards abiding by the right view: “Beforehand, however, there falls on the kingdom of the world one stroke and calamity after another.” Vitringa, also, had a correct apprehension of the general import, and only departed from this in his interpretation of the particular parts; for he says, “The plagues were designed to punish and extirpate the enemies of God’s people, so that that large and glorious kingdom might be prepared for Christ and his saints.”

There can be no doubt that this group bears an independent character, that it stands by itself separate and complete. This is manifest especially from a comparison of ch. Revelation 8:5 with ch. Revelation 11:19. In the former passage we have the prophecy, in the latter the complete fulfilment. Further, at the close of the vision we stand at the last end (see Introd. to ch. 12), so that the scene cannot be prolonged farther in this line. At the beginning, again, of the vision, we stand at the first commencement, and it cannot possibly be imagined that we have here a description of the things that were to follow immediately on what is announced in ch. Revelation 8:1. (See, in regard to the notion of every thing to the end of ch. 11 still belonging to the territory of the seven seals, the Introd. to ch. 12.) In ch. Revelation 8:1, at the opening of the seventh seal, we see the world-power lying shattered and prostrate on the ground. Here, on the other hand, we have another series of catastrophes, which bear the signature of the half and incomplete, and only when we reach the seventh trumpet do we find ourselves again at the same point at which we were when the seventh seal was disclosed. In the sixth seal even, where every thing appeared already in dreadful convulsion and immediately approaching its end, it was impossible that such catastrophes should follow, as are indicated here in the first four trumpets. The result is, that the world-catastrophes represented here could only run parallel to those described in the earlier group. But the independence maintained by us is that only of but one group, not that of a separate writing, which has been only accidentally and externally united into one whole with another. There exists, first, a near connection between this group and the preceding one. If we had here an independent writing before us, the beginning: And I saw the seven angels, would be unsuitable. The introductory vision of the angel with incense would then also have formally stood at the head, without being connected by any sort of bridge with what goes before. But now, since the seven angels with the trumpets are formally linked together with the seven angels, they must also be materially associated with them. In an independent writing also the theatre would have required to be more particularly described. Here, it is presupposed as a thing known from the preceding context (ch. Revelation 4:1): John still finds himself in heaven. But this group likewise points forward to what is to follow; as appears in a double respect. First, the final catastrophe, to which all the others are preparatory, the object of all the fervent longings of the people of God, is delineated here with greater brevity than the other preliminary ones. The description of it is properly confined to ch. Revelation 11:19. This can only be explained on the ground, that the more extended representation of the final catastrophe was reserved for a later opportunity. The supposition is the more probable, as the brevity is an enigmatical one, pointing to a commentary afterwards to be given. Further, the Revelation was seen in the midst of the Roman persecution. According to the analogy of the earlier prophets, that, for example, of Isaiah’s prophecy in Isaiah 13, we expect on the general ground of the representation of judgments to be inflicted on the world, a special disclosure of the fate of this ungodly world-power in particular. But this is as little found here as in the group of the seven seals. All the judgments befal the inhabitants of the earth, under whom the Romans are certainly comprehended, but never solely intended. Vitringa, who remarks, “The seven trumpet-blasts indicate the evils which are decreed against the Roman kingdom on account of its hostility to the church of Christ, and which shall end with the entire subjection of this kingdom,” resorts to an arbitrary limitation of the sphere of the divine judgments. But this group, like the preceding one, for the most part retains a kind of general character, which was admirably in place in the introduction to the closing prophetical book of Scripture, though it could not possibly continue to stand at that. We should have laid down the book with an unsatisfactory feeling, if it had merely been distinguished by the vividness with which it represented the avenging righteousness and redeeming love of God, and had not presented the leading features of the later development of things in the history of the church and the world, more especially in that direction, which accords with the historical starting-point of the Revelation. We could not otherwise have been able to get rid of the thought, that the introduction in ch. Revelation 1:1-3 makes too high pretensions. None of the great prophets of the Old Testament, though they still had the mission first of all of instilling general truths into the minds of the people, while John found this already done to his hand, remained thus at mere general enunciations, such as, that sin is the destruction of a people, that God punishes all the enemies of his church, etc. With all of them, indeed, the special rests on the general as its foundation; only it does not stand there. There is, besides, in Revelation a twofold special reference to the contents of the later groups. The voices of the seven thunders in ch. Revelation 10:4, which John (in the meantime) was not to write, but to seal up, point to a later group, in which it is going to be reported concerning the time of the mystery of God, as he has announced it to his servants the prophets. And the beast which ascends from the abyss, which suddenly meets us in ch. Revelation 11:7, is a riddle that finds no solution within this group, though it is impossible but that a solution should be given. These indications pointing forwards to the following groups correspond to the not less intended allusion to the group of the seven seals in ch. Revelation 9:4.

We may endeavour to determine more exactly the relation of this group to the preceding one. The commonest and most frightful scourge through which the vengeance of heaven discharges itself on the apostate earth is war. The other plagues, such as hunger and pestilence, commonly appear only in its train. In the preceding group also war has broken out. But it appears there only as on a like footing with the other plagues. This second introductory group, however, is entirely devoted to it. To the last trumpet, that of the final victory, all here is only an expansion of the words of our Lord, “Nation shall rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom,” Matthew 24:7.

We have now only further to endeavour to explain the symbol of the trumpets. In Scripture trumpets are always employed on account of their piercing, loud sound. What may be more exactly meant, must in each case be determined by the connection. The sound of the trumpet has no intrinsic worth in itself.

That the loud stirring noise of the trumpet is the essential characteristic is evident from the circumstance that the sound of the trumpet is itself described as a cry, תרועה , or sample in Leviticus 25:9, and that the loud cry goes along with it as a fitting accompaniment; comp. Joshua 6:5, where the people were to raise a great shout at the blowing of the trumpets, Zephaniah 1:16. Then it appears from such passages as Isaiah 58:1, “Raise thy voice like a trumpet,” Hosea 8:1, “Put the trumpet to thy mouth and say, He comes upon the house of the Lord like an eagle,” where the loud tone is plainly indicated by that of the trumpet. Finally, it appears from the use of trumpets in the sacred music. In my Commentary on the Psalms, it was remarked in reference to this: “Other instruments (besides harps and psalteries) are mentioned only in festival and national songs of praise; as trumpets at the thanksgiving for Jehoshaphat’s victory, Psalms 47:5, at the paschal feast in Psalms 81:3, at the consecration of the walls of the city in Nehemiah’s time, in Psalms 150. In the historical books trumpets are mentioned at the bringing in of the ark of the covenant, 1 Chronicles 15:24, “And the priests trumpeted with trumpets before the ark of the Lord” (comp. 2 Samuel 6:15, “And David and all Israel brought up the ark with a shout and the sound of trumpets”)—at the consecration of the temple, 2 Chronicles 5:12-13—at the solemn restoration of the worship under Hezekiah, 2 Chronicles 29:26-27; finally, in Ezra 3:10, Nehemiah 12:35. They are always mentioned in connection with other very noisy instruments. In 2 Chronicles 30:21 it is said of the passover under Hezekiah, that “they praised the Lord with instruments of strength, which were to Jehovah,” Michaelis: musical instruments being employed of such a kind as gave forth a strong sound; Jarchi: with trumpets, having respect to 2 Chronicles 29:26-27. (Psalms, vol. III. p. xvi., Eng. Trans.) Accordingly, the loud stirring voice was the characteristic. This use of the trumpets in sacred music entirely accords with Numbers 10:10, “And on your feast-days, and on your high festivals, and on your new moons, ye shall blow with trumpets.” Hence, festivals and trumpets were inseparably connected together. As the festival-day was related to other days, so the sound of the trumpet to other sounds.

Bähr in his Symbolik (Th. II., p. 594), has laboured in vain to give to the sound of the trumpet a definite meaning, especially to bring it into connection with the Sabbath-idea. But it is against this, that in the Sabbatical year there was no sounding of trumpets, nor at the Sabbath of weeks. Then, it must be altogether denied that on the first day of the seventh month pre-eminently the trumpets were blown, so as that it should be known by this, and in this alone should be found the peculiarity of the festival. The day is called in Leviticus 23:24, Numbers 29:1, not the day, but a day of blowing of trumpets, not less than the great festivals, at which this was to be understood, as a matter of course, to be done. The sound of the trumpet was not more peculiar to it than the cessation from work, the calling of a sacred convocation, the presentation of sacrifices. Still less indeed, for it was common to this feast not merely with the great feasts, but even with all the new moons, according to Numbers 10:10. We must not separate the blowing of the trumpets on the first day of the seventh month, as to its meaning, from that on the other new moons, and generally on the public festivals. As the sacrifices on this day possessed no partial character, but represented all spheres of the religious life, so we must not give to the sound of the trumpets a partial meaning. It points to the more excited character of the religious feeling, which is peculiar to festive occasions generally, of the “Lord, have mercy on us,” not less than of the “Lord, we give thee thanks,” and in particular to those feasts which marked the commencement of a new period of time. Besides, the sound of the trumpet being put for the mark or signal in Leviticus 23:24, shows that the blowing of the trumpets on that day had only a subjective character, that it merely served to bring the Lord to the remembrance of the congregation, comp. Numbers 10:9, “And ye shall blow an alarm with the trumpets, and it shall be remembered to you before the Lord your God, Numbers 10:10, and it shall serve to you for a remembrance before your God.” Bähr’s supposition, of its being indicated by the sound of the trumpet, that Israel was brought into remembrance before Jehovah, is against this passage. According to it the blowing with trumpets is a call of the congregation, and not an announcement on the part of God. Else, the blowing with trumpets must have been committed to the priests, and not to the people. Nor in Numbers 29:1, could it have appeared among the obligations of the church at large, along with the calling of sacred convocations, and the cessation from all work. Finally, the hypothesis of Bähr finds no support in the circumstance, that by the prescription of the law the trumpets must be sounded throughout the land in the year of jubilee on the day of atonement. By this it was merely intimated, through the strong, far-resounding sound of the trumpet, that an important time for the land had come in. The 50th year was thereby consecrated, Leviticus 25:10, set apart from the number of the rest. The more definite purpose is intimated in the proclamation of liberty throughout the whole land for all its inhabitants, mentioned in that passage. Only in this connection did the loud sound become at the same time a joyful one.

We must distinguish, whether the trumpets must denote what God has to say to the church or the world, or what the church has to Say to God. This distinction was already made in the Mosaic law. Of the use of the trumpets for what the Lord has to say to the church, it is treated in the classic passage on the trumpets, Numbers 10:2-8; where, however, only two occasions are mentioned, the assembling of the congregation and decamping. And of their use in what the church had to say to God, in times of distress or on festival days, it is treated in Numbers 10:9-10. In the former case, the sound of the trumpet might with perfect indifference be employed to announce a joyful subject, a great salvation; as, for example, the falling of the walls of Jericho; or to give notice of great tribulation, as in Joel 2:1, where the day of judgment is announced by trumpets, “Blow with trumpets on Zion, and sound upon my holy mount, let all inhabitants of the earth tremble, for the day of the Lord comes, and is near.” But it can only be in respect to important transactions, such as were of general significance, of deep pervasive power, that they are used; either great catastrophes are announced by trumpets, or important tidings, which the Lord has to communicate to his people. As the Lord will never summon his people for trifling matters to his throne, the sound of the trumpet might certainly be taken for the common note of a summoning before the Lord.

In the latter case the blowing of the trumpets might serve equally well to denote an animated “Lord, in distress to thee we call,” and an animated and solemn, Te Deum laudamus. The characteristic is merely the rising of the state of feeling above the common measure.

The question: Why should the blowing of trumpets have been a matter properly belonging to the priests by the law of Moses? is simply to be answered thus: because the trumpets “had of all instruments the loudest, strongest, most powerful tone,” and on this account were used, where the Lord had to say something of importance to his church, or where the church came before him in a particularly lively and excited state of feeling. The trumpets stand related to the other instruments, as the Lord’s servants to the ordinary members of the church, as the feast-day to the other days.

Let us turn now more especially to the section before us. The more immediate import of the trumpet-sound is determined by the starting-point of the hook. The occasion of this was the oppression of the church by the heathen world-power. Accordingly by the trumpets only great catastrophes can be denoted, through which destruction should be brought to the world, and salvation be first prepared for the church, and then actually brought in. The trumpets here are exciting for all— joyfully exciting for the church, frightfully exciting for the world.

Such generally is the signification of the trumpets here. With a certain degree of truth, however, three special references may still be supposed.

By combining the seven number with the trumpets we are not unnaturally reminded of the conquest of Jericho. For seven days must Israel, according to Joshua 6, march round the city at the Lord’s command in solemn procession, with the ark of the covenant and seven priests blowing with trumpets—each day once—but on the seventh day, seven times. And at the last round the walls fell down. In the book of Joshua Jericho has a kind of symbolical meaning. What was done at the fortress, which guarded the entrance into the territory of the Canaanites, presented an image of what should be done in general respecting the Canaanitish power. Faith saw in the last trumpet-blast at the walls of Jericho, along with these, the whole state of the Canaanites, apparently so strong and invincible, falling to the ground. If Jericho, then, in the book of Joshua forms an image of the Canaanitish power, it is admirably fitted to stand as a type of the world-power generally, the overthrow of which ensues on the blowing of the seventh trumpet, in which all the preceding ones culminate.

The Old Testament presents a second case of the combination of trumpets with the seven, and one that stands in an easy and natural connection with the subject before us. After seven times seven years it was ordained in the Mosaic law, that the year of jubilee should be proclaimed by trumpets—the year, when the Lord announced himself as proprietor—the year, when every one returned to his possession ( Leviticus 25:13)—the year of freedom and of restoration for all the distressed, who looked for it with anxious longing. This year appears even in the Old Testament, in Isaiah 61:1-2, as a type of the redemption from the slavery of the world, the year of the Lord’s grace and the day of the vengeance of our God, to comfort all that mourn. Such consolation breaks in here at the sounding of the seventh trumpet. Finally, the trumpet stands in a close relation to the excited character of war, and is peculiarly the warlike instrument—comp. Zephaniah 1:16; Jeremiah 4:19, Jeremiah 42:14; Ezekiel 7:14. Hence also, among the catastrophes to be inflicted by the Lord, which were denoted in general by the blowing of the trumpets, it was especially suited for announcing the tribulations of war that were impending from the Lord. Bengel: “In the prophecy is described God’s war against the enemies of his kingdom, on account of which the trumpets are here peculiarly appropriate.”

Verse 2

Revelation 10:2. And he had in his hand a little book open; and he set his right foot on the sea, and the left upon the earth. That the angel has here the open book in his hand, shews plainly that we are not to separate the interlude into two parts independent of each other, ch. Revelation 10:1-7, and ch. Revelation 10:8-11. If the little book were without meaning as to the first action, the angel could not have appeared with it so early in his hand—as Züllig conceives: “The little book belongs to the description of his appearance, although it has nothing to do with what immediately follows.” The impression made would then be a very disturbing one. But the correct view is rather this: Revelation 10:2-7 meet the doubt and disquietude, which the partly distressing contents of the little book were fitted to raise. In this it is represented how the worldly spirit was to press hard upon the church, and to some extent also press into her. Should such a church, so deeply tainted by the world, be held worthy of attaining to a complete victory over the world? Must not the accomplishment of God’s mystery, which he had announced to his servants the prophets, be staid in the middle of its course? Could there be anything more than half faith kept in regard to the whole salvation? The consideration of the sinfulness of the chosen of the entire church—this is the dangerous rock on which the hope of a completed work of salvation threatens to be shipwrecked. Without the supposition of such a separate occasion and reference, Revelation 10:2-7 is scarcely intelligible. Apart from this, what need were there for the solemn asseveration by an oath, that after the preliminary judgments the final ones should follow, and the “regeneration” therewith connected? That, apart from the one mighty stumbling-block, is the most natural in the world for the believing mind.

The little book here manifestly looks back to the book in ch. Revelation 5:1. But the remark of Bengel is quite erroneous, that” this little book forms the remnant or the filling up of that book; in that this also was contained and sealed along with it.” The contents of the book have already been fully communicated. The book contains the judgments on the world, the little book the destinies of the church. With the distinction of the book [Note: The βιβλὶ?ον is in form a diminutive, but in use is scarcely distinguished from βί?βλος .] from the little book—founded on the circumstance that the sins and punishments of the world constitute matter of a much more comprehensive nature than those of the church—the circumstance goes hand in hand of the book being written on both sides; for this indicated the fulness of its matter.

The book was sealed with seven seals, and no one could open it but Christ, who did open it, after John had wept much that no one could open it and look into it. The subject in hand there was the victory of the church over the world. But here, on the other hand, the little book is opened. The subject of which it treats is the injuries sustained by the church from the pernicious influence exercised over it by the world. They lie also upon the surface, and irresistibly force themselves upon one’s notice. Here the word holds: “Lord, my sins are ever before me.”

The planting of the foot on anything is a symbol of taking possession and maintaining with invincible power. In Daniel 12:6, Michael appears as standing on the waters of the Tigris, as a sign that he has power over the might of heathendom, and consequently could bring it under his dominion. Comp., besides, Psalms 8:7, where to put under the feet and to have dominion are parallel; Psalms 110:1, Joshua 10:24. A commentary on the symbolical action is given here, as in Daniel, by the oath, which proceeds upon an unconditional subjection of the earth and the sea.

That the sea here, as commonly in the Revelation, is used of the sea of the nations (see on ch. Revelation 8:8), is clear from this alone, that the literal sea has nothing properly to do with the matter in hand: it was not comprehended in the revolt against God and his kingdom, and the placing it under subjection, as announced by the symbolical action, would have been without meaning. The feet which were placed on the sea and the earth are, according to Revelation 10:1, like pillars of fire; they fix themselves fast like posts wherever they are placed, and consume those who oppose themselves. Where these feet are placed, there revolt against God must have existed. To this result we are led by the consideration that the sea here, and likewise in Revelation 10:5; Revelation 10:8, is named before the earth, and also by the right foot being placed on it. And in the next group it is not out of the literal sea, but out of the sea of the nations, that the beast arises.

Verse 3

Revelation 10:3. And he cried with a loud voice, as a lion roars; and when he cried the seven thunders uttered their voices. The hostile character of the loud voice is made manifest by comparing it with the roar of the lion. This, in a series of passages of the Old Testament, has already been consecrated as an expression of the wrath of God against his enemies—comp. Hosea 11:10, where the Lord roars like a lion for his church against the world; Joel 3:16, “The Lord shall roar out of Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem; and the heavens and the earth shall shake; and the Lord shall be the hope of his people, and the strength of the children of Israel: “also the passages resting on that of Joel, Amos 1:2, Jeremiah 25:30. Christ had already been designated the lion of the tribe of Judah, on account of his terribleness to his enemies. Whom the threatening respects is manifest from Revelation 10:2, where the strong angel plants his foot upon the sea and the earth. To them there is called out a frightful, “Thus far and no farther;” to them is announced the complete discomfiture, which brings for ever to an end their opposition to heaven. We afterwards see the first beast rising out of the sea—the ungodly world-power, and out of the earth the second beast—the ungodly spirit of earthly wisdom; by which the conflict between God and the world, that had hitherto been indicated only in general features, is to be more pointedly delineated. The strong voice like the roaring of a lion itself intimates that the matter is not to be very greatly protracted. Jesus formerly exclaimed with a loud voice when on the cross, “It is finished.” And the loud voice here announces that this last word of his upon earth shall be kept in the final victory of the church, and the subjection of the world, which have their foundation in the work accomplished by Christ upon the cross. [Note: Through the μυκᾶ?σθαι , properly mugire, the roar of the lion is here fitly designated, because a stronger and more palpable expression than the ὠ?ρύ?εσθαυι of 1 Peter 5:8. It is too far-fetched to think of the resemblance which the voice of the lion is said to have to that of cattle, when he has got his prey; Plutarch remarks concerning it, de animal.: κᾶ?ν λά?βὼ?σιν ὁ?τιοῦ?ν , ἀ?νακαλοῦ?νται (calling on their young) μό?σχου μυκή?ματι τὸ? βρά?χημα ποιοῦ?ντες ὁ?́?μοιον .]

What was uttered by the angel in a brief and sharp word of threatening is continued and carried forward by the seven thunders. This connection with the lion’s roar alone shews that the seven trumpets must possess a threatening character. Thunders in the Apocalypse, too, always carry a polemical aspect, always stand in respect to the frightful judgments of God, whether they may only be threatened, or may be actually executed—comp. on ch. Revelation 4:5, Revelation 8:5, Revelation 11:19, Revelation 16:18. Finally, there can be no doubt that the seven trumpets here point to Psalms 29. There the voice of the Lord is mentioned seven times, which cannot be regarded as accidental, on account of the corresponding seven number of the verses. But in Psalms 29 the thunder bears a frightful character (“the voice of the Lord cleaves with flames of fire,” Psalms 29:7); it appears as a symbolical threatening to the world, and hence also as a symbolical promise to the church, which is borne down by the world. From these remarks it will be seen with what justice it is still maintained, that” because thunder speaks, the subject cannot necessarily be a matter of terror.” The not is here plainly too much. Nor are we to give force to the article, so as to suppose there should be actually seven peals of thunder; these are no more to be understood really, than the seven Spirits of God in ch. Revelation 1:4. This belongs only to the vision, and has its root in Psalms 29.

It is remarkable that in the writings of the New Testament there is next to no mention of thunder, excepting in those of John. It occurs in the gospel, John 12:29, where a commentary is given in John 12:31; so that there also the thunder has a polemical character; it announces that the name of Jesus shall be glorified by the execution of judgment on this world. Then it occurs in a long series of passages in the Apocalypse. Once only is it found in Mark, Mark 3:17, and with reference to John, to whom, along with his brother James, we are told, the Lord gave the name of Boanerges, sons of thunder. This passage supplies us with a key for the frequent occurrence of thunder in the Revelation, as was remarked by Bengel, “A son of thunder is a fit person for hearing voices of thunder.” The name Boanerges is held by Rationalism to be a name of reproach, but it is not less a name of honour, and significative of a divine mission, than the name Peter, with which it is very closely connected. In the application of that name the Lord described the Apocalypse long before it was written, so that it may be said to be deprived of its signification, whenever the Apocalypse is ascribed to another than John. It rests upon a twofold supposition; first, a vivid sense of the judicial righteousness of God in respect to those against whom it is directed (to the strength of which in James, his roughness, as the world would say, he probably owed his early martyrdom), and an aptness for the symbolical language of nature. Another point of connexion as to the past for the frequent occurrence of thunder in the Apocalypse, is furnished by Luke 9:51. John and James would have had fire immediately called down from heaven on those who would not receive Jesus; in which we have not merely to think of their strong sense of the divine righteousness, which then certainly was mingled with dross, and required to be purified by the fire of the Holy Spirit, but also of the peculiar cast of mind, which should have led them to seek for the exercise of the divine righteousness in this particular form.

Verse 4

Revelation 10:4. And when the seven thunders had uttered (their voices), I was going to write (them); and I heard a voice from heaven saying: Seal what the seven thunders have uttered, and write it not. A speech of definite meaning is attributed to the thunders, to each its separate import. For, otherwise, it would have been impossible to write what they had spoken. There is here a remarkable coincidence with John 12:28, where also we have a voice of thunder with a definite meaning. We must not compare here the unutterable words of Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:4. For that the discourse here is not of impenetrable secrets, as it is there, is plain from the circumstance that John was going to write the words. The means of a more exact explanation in regard to this demand are furnished by the fundamental passages of the Old Testament, Daniel 8:26, “Shut up the vision, for it is for a long time”—where the words that follow, “I was astonished at the vision, and no one understood it,” plainly show what is meant by the shutting up; Daniel 12:4, where Daniel is enjoined to fold up the roll, which contained the prophecy that had been imparted to him, and to seal it till the time of the fulfilment—meaning, that the prophecy was for the present as good as closed up and sealed, the church of the future should alone be able to make a right use of it; Daniel 12:9, where the angel answered to the prayer of Daniel, for more explicit information regarding the prophecy, that he could not impart this, for the prophecy was to be shut up and sealed till the last time. From these fundamental passages, it follows, 1. That here it is only a temporary keeping secret that is spoken of. From the first indeed we could expect no other than such; for we have here the Revelation of Jesus Christ. Accordingly, we are not to think of an absolute and perpetual secrecy. Substantially, the sequel must disclose what is here shut up. The book with seven seals also in ch. 5 was only provisionally sealed. In common life it is not what is never to be read, but only what is not to be read in the meantime, that is sealed. 2. That the ground of this preliminary keeping secret is to be sought in this, that the basis for the understanding of it meanwhile was wanting. With this also agrees ch. Revelation 22:10. The injunction not to seal is there founded on the consideration, that the fulfilment should soon throw light on the prophecy. The general truth, that the seven thunders announced the destruction of the ungodly power, was plain enough. But for the particular points involved, there was still wanting the necessary foundation to a proper understanding, and it would have been needful to trespass on the territory of the following groups. In these we are to expect, according to this passage, detailed explanations regarding the overthrow of the powers that are opposed to the kingdom of God. The next group itself treats of the three enemies of God’s kingdom; the sixth relates the destruction of these three enemies; in ch. Revelation 20:7, ss., the assault and overthrow of Gog and Magog are depicted. What is thus delineated in later portions of the overthrow of the enemies of God’s kingdom, and of the final victory of the latter, must be essentially identical with that, which is here meanwhile shut up in secrecy.

In regard to the voice of the angel Bengel remarks, “From the commencement of the book the Lord Jesus himself has so often told John to write, that it is doubtless his voice also, which in other passages commands John to write, and here interdicts his writing, while it commands him to take the little book.” If we can suppose, that it was Christ who appeared in the character of the strong angel, we can appropriately understand by the voice from heaven, the voice of Christ. For, his appearing as the strong angel does not interfere with his sitting on the right hand of the Father. In the days of his flesh, also, he was not merely on the earth, but constantly in heaven too—comp. John 3:13. But that the voice does not proceed from the angel but from heaven arises from this, that the angel has here a special mission, within the compass of which there lay no control over the composition of the Apocalypse.

Verses 5-7

Revelation 10:5. And the angel whom I saw stand upon the sea and the earth lifted up his right hand to heaven. Revelation 10:6. And swore by him that liveth for ever and ever, who has made heaven and what is therein, and the earth and what is therein, and the sea and what is therein, that henceforth no time more should be. Revelation 10:7. But in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall sound, then the mystery of God is finished, as he has declared to his servants the prophets. The statement: whom I saw stand, is not merely a personal description. The oath forms a commentary on the placing of the foot on the sea and the earth. The original passage is Daniel 12:7, “And I heard the man clothed in linen, who was upon the waters of the river, when he held up his right hand and his left hand to heaven, and sware by him that liveth for ever, that in a time, two times, and an half time . . . all these things shall be finished.” There the angel raises both hands to heaven, here only the right hand; for in the one hand (known to be the left from what is here said of the right) he holds the book. The passage of Daniel, again, points back to Deuteronomy 32:40-41, where Jehovah swears that he will avenge his oppressed church on her persecutors: “For I lift my hand to heaven, and say, As truly as I live for ever I whet my glittering sword, and my hand lays hold on judgment,” etc. The strong angel swears by him who lives for ever, and ever, who has made heaven, etc. He who lives for ever will reign for ever, ch. Revelation 11:15. He must act over again the past, as it perpetually springs up afresh. Eternal, like himself, must his protection also be over his people. He can never surrender them to destruction, but must conduct them to the consummation of glory—comp. Psalms 102:24, and Deuteronomy 32:40, where Jehovah gives his eternity as a pledge that he will execute vengeance for his people. He who has made heaven and the other regions of created beings cannot be satisfied with a partial dominion; the end must belong to him equally with the beginning (see on ch. Revelation 1:8), the kingdom of the world must be unconditionally his; there can be nothing in the heaven, on the earth, and in the sea, whether literal or that of the nations, which for a continuance can raise against him a successful opposition; all in heaven, sea, and earth, must at last give way and vanish, that is contrary to their original destination (ch. Revelation 21:1). See on ch. Revelation 4:11 in regard to the creation as a pledge of the completion of the kingdom of God. The object of the oath is that no time more shall be. Time, here, is as much as, delay—comp. Revelation 2:21, Revelation 6:11, where time occurs in a similar sense, Isaiah 13:22, Habakkuk 2:3. The more exact import is given in Revelation 10:7. From that we learn that a delay is here meant, which might intervene between the seventh trumpet and the completion of the mystery of God. In the earlier trumpets a delay had entered in regard to the coming of the kingdom of God in its completion. The church, ready to faint under a sense of sin, is afraid that matters shall go under the seventh trumpet as they have done before, that they shall continue to stand at the suspension of a particular judgment. The doubt has respect, not to the entering of the seventh trumpet, but to the nature and extent of it. The church dreads lest her sins may deprive her of the good to be brought by it. Because she has not answered her destination and calling, she thinks that she can look for no full salvation, no perfect victory. The completion has receded from her to an invisible distance. This is the temptation that the oath meets. The supposition of some expositors, that an absolute ceasing of time is what is here spoken of, introduces a modern thought into the passage; for, according to the scriptural point of view, eternity is not the antithesis to time, but measureless time, and is dispersed by Revelation 10:7, where the discourse is not, as by this supposition we should have expected, of the entrance of eternity. I pass over in silence the still more arbitrary exposition of Bengel. The mystery of God, which shall be finished in the days of the seventh trumpet, must be entirely of a joyful nature. For it is said literally, “as he has evangelised his servants the prophets,” as he has given to them concerning it a joyful message. By the connection, the mystery has respect to the dominion of Christ over the sea and the earth. For, the symbolical action that expresses this, forms the starting-point of the oath. But we recognize more exactly the contents of the mystery of God from ch. Revelation 11:15; Revelation 11:18, where the things concealed here from the church actually appear. We learn there, that it affects the Lord’s dominion over the world, the judgment of the world, and the full establishment of the servants of God in their inheritance. It was by pointing to this glorious end, that the prophets of the Old Testament consoled believers during the long and dismal ages of the world’s ascendancy and power. The reality of this consolation must be made good at the trumpet of the seventh angel.” God’s children sow, indeed, sorrowfully and in tears, but at last, and notwithstanding their sins, the period comes for which they longed. The harvest time comes when they gather their sheaves. Then shall all their bitter sorrow be turned into joy and laughter.” The joyful message of the completion is marked as a mystery. The idea of mystery is that of absolute inaccessibility to ordinary sense and discernment—comp. on ch. Revelation 1:1. This is fast bound within the circle of the present. Because it knows not the power of God, Matthew 22:29, it cannot realize the thought of such a radical change of state, as would be implied in the coming of a new heavens and a new earth, and the sea being no more found. It thinks that the church is constantly to lie on the ground, the world always to triumph. Because it knows not the invincible grace of God, it casts a glance on the sins of the church, and. feels as if these were sufficient to throw an insuperable obstacle in the way of the completion of God’s kingdom. The expression: then is finished, [Note: Literally: And it is finished, in the Hebr. style; comp. the καί? in the Apod. Jus. iv. 15. The various readings have arisen from people failing to enter into the tempus propheticum.] [1] stands with realizing confidence for: then shall be finished—comp. the “it is done,” in ch. Revelation 11:15, and in Revelation 11:17, “Thou hast taken.”

Verse 8

Revelation 10:8. And the voice, which I heard from heaven, spake again with me and said, Go away, take the open little book in the hand of the angel, who stands upon the sea and the earth. After John, and with him the church, has been furnished with heavenly consolation, the little book with its painful contents was presented to him. Here also there is not a mere personal description, when the book is spoken of as being in the hand of the angel, who stands on the sea and the earth. The pain, which the little book naturally occasioned, was healed by a glance at Him in whose hand it was. Notwithstanding the little book, the church’s victory over the sea and the earth remains certain. The contents of the little book are already by anticipation determined by the analogy of the book in the passage of Ezekiel here referred to, Ezekiel 2:8, ss. From this we expect, 1. That the little book should be of a mournful character; 2. That it should have respect, not to the fates of the world, but to those of the church; for that little book has to do with the sins of a degenerate church, and with the judgments which the Lord was going to inflict on account of them. The subject of it is still farther determined by Revelation 10:9-10, according to which it is a painful one to the Seer. And the result thus obtained is confirmed by the representation given of the contents of the book in ch. Revelation 11:1-13. It treats of the falling away of the church, and the divine visitations sent in chastisement for this. As the rainbow provides consolation in respect to the cloud, so the angel’s standing upon the sea and the earth, provides consolation in respect to the little book, which must produce despair, unless it were found in such a hand.

Verse 9

Revelation 10:9. And I went away to the angel and spake to him, that he should give me the little book. And he said to me, Take and eat it, and it shall make thy belly bitter, but in thy mouth it shall be sweet as honey. The Seer must not merely eat the little book; he must swallow it, so that it might go down into his body. Ezekiel 3:3 of Ezekiel corresponds “Thou shalt make thy body (not merely thy mouth) eat this book, and fill thy bowels with it.” The substantial import of the swallowing is given by Ezekiel, Ezekiel 3:10, in the words, “All my words, which I speak to thee, do thou take into thy heart.” The man of God must take the divine truth into his inmost being, and convert it into juice and blood (comp. Psalms 40:9, “Thy law is in my heart,” properly in mine entrails). Thus alone does he become qualified to appear as God’s spokesman, to prophecy—comp. Ezekiel 3:1, where the speaking and prophecying appear as the end and consequence of the eating, “Thou son of man, eat what thou findest (not, what thou likest), eat this roll, and go, speak to the house of Israel.” Immediately after he has swallowed the roll, which is the heavenly exemplar of the existing book of his prophecies, precisely as the little book of John comes again into view in ch. Revelation 11:1-13, it is said in Ezekiel 3:4, “And he said to me, Thou son of man, go to the house of Israel, and speak to them my words.” That the sweetness in the mouth does not proceed from the partly agreeable contents, is clear from the passage in Ezekiel. The book, which he found to be like honey in his mouth for sweetness, contained nothing but what was grievous, it was written throughout with lamentation, mourning, and woe. That the sweetness, too, is ascribed to the mouth, and the bitterness to the belly, shews, that we are not to think of contents partly sweet, and partly bitter. The real cause of the sweetness we learn from the passage, on which, again, that of Ezekiel rests, Jeremiah 15:16, “I found thy words and ate them ( received them into my inmost being), and thy words were to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart, for thy name is named upon me, Jehovah, God of Hosts” It is unspeakably sweet and delectable to be the organ and the spokesman of the Most High. Then also the matter of the words themselves comes into consideration,—comp. Psalms 19:11, where the commands of the Lord are described as sweeter than honey and the honey-comb. Even the most pungent divine truths have for a spiritually minded man a joyful and refreshing side. [Note: Vitringa: “The prophets, carried out of themselves, pass entirely over, as it were, into the room of God, and, divesting themselves of carnal affection, rising into the region of pure and spiritual contemplation, whatever they saw they could do for the glory of God, and for manifesting his righteousness us well as his grace, they approved of in their own mind.”] The bitterness, which the spiritual food occasioned in the body of the Seer (literally, “it shall make thee bitter in the body”), denotes the sharp pain, produced by the special contents of the word, that was committed to him. It is not so direct as the sweetness of the mouth derived from the original passage in Ezekiel. But Jeremiah 15:17 substantially corresponds. The prophet there, speaking of the mournful part of his work, says, “I sat not in the assembly of the mockers nor rejoiced, I sat alone because of thy hand (Michaelis: ‘brooding over the misfortunes of my people, which I must predict according to thy command’), for with indignation thou fillest me.” We must connect with this the passage in Ezek Ezekiel 2:10, which declares the book-roll to have been filled with lamentation, mourning, and woe. In Ezekiel 3:14, “And I went embittered in the heat of my spirit,” there is found, not merely the substance of the figurative representation before us, but also in the embittered, in the feeling of vexatious sadness and holy indignation, a personal application of it.

Sweetness is attributed to the mouth, because this is the organ of God’s orator, the prophet as such,—comp. Isaiah 6:5; Isaiah 6:7, Isaiah 59:21. But to the prophet, as such, the divine revelation was sweet. All was agreeable to him, that came from the clear and pure well-spring of God. In contrast to the mouth the body distinguishes the Seer as an individual, as a member of the church.

What is said here to the prophet: take it and eat it, is in substance applicable to all believers, and especially to the teachers of the church in relation to holy writ. Their place in the kingdom of God will be measured by their fidelity in complying with this prescription. We, too, must eat and even swallow it; not some choice portion of it, but the whole—not that alone which is agreeable to us, like those who separate the gospel from the law, but that also, which may occasion us the deepest pain. The twofold effect is still also renewing itself—on the one hand, joy in the whole word of God and cordial approbation, and on the other deep pain, in so far as the individual himself and the church are thereby condemned, and in so far as the hand of God, which is stretched out for punishment, comes there into contact with them.

The view, which regards the book as containing “the secret of the new world,” tears it away in a violent manner from the prophecy in Revelation 10:11, which, according to the original passage in Ezekiel, can only be regarded as the product of the swallowed book, and throws the whole, indeed, into confusion. Nor can it give anything but a very constrained explanation of the bitterness. What refers to the judgments of God upon a sinful world, and the final completion of God’s mystery, Revelation 10:7, is sweet both for the mouth and for the body. For the Christian, for the man of God, it is through and through a joyful message, a gospel—according to Revelation 10:7, comp. Luke 21:28.

Verse 10

Revelation 10:10. And I took the little book from the hand of the angel and swallowed it; and it was sweet in my mouth like honey; and when I had eaten it, it griped me in the belly. The order is a reverse one, first sweetness, then bitterness. The change is intentional. It indicates, that the two sharply contend for the priority. The pain was first named before the joy, because it was here so deep, that it was soon to overcome the joy. Then the joy was mentioned before the pain, because such must be the order connected with the ways of God and uprightness.

Verse 11

Revelation 10:11. And he said to me, Thou must again prophecy upon peoples, and nations, and tongues, and many kings. Bengel says on the: thou must, “He, who has not received and eaten the little book, cannot prophecy, but he, who has received and eaten it, must do so. So Paul also must testify, Acts 23:11.” Under the prophecying the symbolical action also in ch. Revelation 11:1-2, is comprehended. For, the symbolical action, especially an action that takes place merely internally, like the one mentioned there, is only one of the manifold forms of prophecy, separated from the simple figure by a fluctuating boundary.

Again, as in the vision of the seven seals, and in the six first trumpets. [Note: Falsely Bengel: “In respect to the old prophets, to whose prophecies this very angel had referred.” The reference to the earlier prophecies of the prophet himself is demanded by the indefinite designation of the object, which can only be explained by supposing what is common to the earlier and the later prophecying to be here marked.] But in another point of view differently. There, as the peoples, etc., were visited by the Lord with severe judgments; here, as they overflowed the church, seduced her into apostacy, and drew down upon her the judgments of the Lord. That it can be prophecied only in this respect upon the peoples and nations, is manifest from what was formerly remarked on the contents of the little book, which here again comes to light, (for little book and prophecy stand related to each other here precisely as in ch. Revelation 1:1; Revelation 1:3, revelation and prophecy). And it is further manifest from that, which the prophet in ch. Revelation 11:1-13 announces in fulfilment of the command to prophecy upon the peoples and nations. There, in Revelation 10:2, the outer court is given to the Gentiles, and they tread the holy city; the beast out of the abyss, the ungodly power, carries on the war with the two witnesses, overcomes and kill them, Revelation 10:7; those of the peoples, and tribes, and tongues, and nations, see their corpses three days and a half, and suffer not their corpses to be buried, Revelation 10:9; they that dwell upon the earth rejoice over them, Revelation 10:10. The translation of Luther has, through an important oversight,” to the peoples,” instead of “upon the peoples.” [Note: The ἐ?πὶ? is found quite similarly used in John 12:16. Τότε ἐ?μνήσθησαν ὅ?τι ταῦ?τα ἦ?ν ἐ?πʼ? αὐ?τῷ? γεγραμμένα . The προφητεύ?ειν with ἐ?πὶ? of what the prophecy has for its object, corresponds to the Hebr. התנבא with על : comp. 1 Kings 22:8; 1 Kings 22:18.] The four number of the peoples, &c., the signature of the earth, points to the oecumenical character of this assault upon the church—comp. the corresponding expression, “who dwell upon the earth,” in ch. Revelation 11:10—and forbids our confining the prophecy to any single event in history. By the mention of many kings we are taken out of the relations of the Seer’s own time, in which the Christian church had to do with only one king, the Roman emperor. It shews, that he stood upon a high watch-tower, from which he looked abroad upon the whole history of the church and the world. That the kings were heathenish in their minds is shewn, not only by ch. 11, but also by the connection with the heathen here—comp. on ch. Revelation 7:9. Ewald’s supposition, that the kings are the leaders of armies, is only a proof of embarrassment. The kings here return again afterwards in the ten kings, who were in the service of the beast, ch. Revelation 17:12; in the kings of the earth, who, after the overthrow of Rome, warred against Christ under the auspices of the beast, ch. Revelation 19:19; and in the kings of the whole earth, whom the wicked spirits in ch. Revelation 16:14 actuated in the conflict against Christ.

To the command to prophecy corresponds the prophet as described in the section ch. Revelation 11:1-13. This falls into two divisions. The first, Revelation 10:1-2, gives the promise, that the faith of the elect shall not expire; the second, Revelation 10:3-11, certifies the uninterrupted continuance of the office of witnessing.

Bibliographical Information
Hengstenberg, Ernst. "Commentary on Revelation 10". Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/heg/revelation-10.html.
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