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Bible Commentaries

E.M. Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament

Revelation 10

Verse 1

Rev 10:1. The drama of the book of Revelation is proceeding down through the centuries, until we are about to arrive at the revolution known in history as the Reformation. But the full development of that mighty movement will be preceded by some items preparatory to it. Now is another time when the reader should again read carefully the "General remarks" at the beginning of this book. But the oppression from the power that was created through the union of church and state has exhausted the patience of the Almighty and he will soon inaugurate the work that is destined to dissolve the unrighteous monster and return to the people their right to act upon their own responsibility. The preliminary events necessary for the main performance are due to begin soon, which will be indicated by some of the symbols of this chapter•. The angel in this verse came down from heaven and the description shows he was coming on behalf of the Lord to impart some predictions about to be carried out. Clothed with a cloud agrees with the fact that he was from the courts of heaven, because the clouds are frequently used in connection with heavenly events (chapter 1:7; 14:14; Mat 24:30; Act 1:9; 1Th 4:17). Rainbow upon his head signifies the dignity and grandeur of his mission. His face like the sun denotes great light which was especially appropriate since his mission was to announce the shedding of Gospel light on those who had been deprived of it because of the Dark Ages. Pillars of fire. Thayer explains this to mean. "Flames rising like columns." It denotes a penetrating brilliance that belongs only to heavenly beings. Comments by Foy E. Wallace Rev 9:13-21 --was the signal of loosing the four angels, the imperial agents which had been restrained from hindering the messengers of Christ until the true Israel of God was sealed " of all the tribes of the children of Israel." The spiritual Israel was symbolized by the hundred forty-four thousand--the holy seed. With the completion of this mission of "sealing the servants of God," the suspension period was declared ended, and the four angels of destruction were loosed to proceed with the encompassing desolation of Jerusalem. (7) The seventh trumpet--chapters 10-11--was the signal of the finale, "in the days of the voice of the seventh angel"--the last days of the political Jewish state and the dispensation of Judaism--accompanied by the testimony of the two witnesses as necessary to establish testimony. It symbolized the two-fold mission and work of the prophets and apostles in the unfolding of the scheme of redemption, begun by Old Testament prophets, but completed by New Testament apostles, and fulfilled in the church. The tragic calamities surrounding these representatives of the church marked the passing of the second woe and the immediate pronouncement of the third woe in the sounding of the seventh trumpet, ending in the conquest of the kingdoms of the world by Christ the conqueror. Verse 1. The seven thunders--Rev 10:1-6. This angel from heaven here designated as another mighty angel is a reversion to Rev 5:2 where the first strong angel made the loud proclamation concerning the sealed book, asking "who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof?' Here in the hand of this second mighty angel is the open book, no longer sealed, or closed, the seven seals of it had also been opened and proclaimed -- Rev 5:5. [Scroll down for identification of this angel] 1. Clothed with a cloud: This angel was wearing a cloud as apparel, or a garment, and was arrayed and encompassed with the phenomenal majesty of a heavenly messenger. He was invested with the credentials of divine authority, which his vestures symbolized.Exo 16:10; Exo 33:9; Num 11:25; Psa 18:11; Mat 17:5; Luk 21:27; Rev 1:7) This display was not for the execution of judgment, but rather to be clothed and attired with the glory befitting his portfolio and comparable to his commission. Compare the similar symbols of official robes in Exo 40:34-38 and Lev 16:2, and the "woman arrayed with the sun" in Rev 12:1 of the next scene. 2. A rainbow upon his head: The rainbow is the symbol of divine covenant. (Gen 9:12-17) It represented assurance against judgment, promise of help, a pledge of divine presence. (Eze 1:28; Rev 4:3; Rev 10:7) It was a sign that this angel was a messenger of mercy, not of judgment, bringing good tidings, not evil forebodings. 3. His face as the sun: The sun is the light of the universe and is the source of all physical radiance. Seeking a term of grandeur and splendor to portray the One to come, the prophet Malachi selected the flaming orb of the day, and likened the Redeemer to the "sun of righteousness." (Mal 4:2) What the sun is to the solar system, Jesus Christ is to the soul. The rise of this sun of righteousness presaged a new day. With its appearance the darkness vanished and turned to day, the tomb itself yielded to his power and surrendering to his orders, released its seal. One mighty to save had come, who was the Redeemer of men, who brought to nought the power of death and of the devil to deliver all who through the fear of death were subject to bondage. (Heb 2:14-15) This angel clothed with a cloud, with a face as the sun, was the herald of the "Sun of righteousness" who would turn the night of persecution into the day of victory. (2Co 4:6) 4. His feet as pillars of fire: The feet are symbolic of the messenger. "How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things." (Rom 10:15) "I turned my feet unto thy testimonies." (Psa 119:59) "And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace." (Eph 6:15) The feet of this strong angel were as "pillars of fire"-- like the pillar that led Israel (Exo 13:21-22) out of Egypt, and was always the symbol of the presence and the guidance of the angels of God. (Exo 14:19; Exo 23:20; Exo 32:34) Describing the feet of this angel as "pillars of fire" denoted that his feet were illuminated with divine guidance to give light to them that sat in darkness and in the shadow of death. (Luk 1:79) The identity of the mighty angel--Rev 10:1 Rev 11:3 Rev 12:7 Rev 14:1 Rev 14:14 Rev 19:11. 1. The open book of Rev 10:8-11 is the sealed book of Rev 5:1. The Lamb took that book from the One who sat on the throne--Rev 5:7. After the opening of the seals, the book was given to John, thus identifying the angel of chapter 10 with the Lamb of chapter 5. 2. The description of the angel of chapter 10 corresponds to that of the Son of man in chapter 1. 3. He appears as Lord in Rev 11:3, exercising a power and authority not ascribed to created beings. 4. The representation of Christ under various figures and forms interspersed in the apocalypse agrees with his presentation as an angel rather than arguing against it. He is the Son in chapter 1. He is the strong Angel, in Revelation 5 :l-2. He is the Lion in verse 5. He is the Lamb in verse 6. In Rev 6:2, He is the Rider; in Rev 14:1, He is the Lamb on Mount Zion; in verse 14, He is the Son on the cloud; and in Rev 19:11, He is the Rider of white horse again. In these premises, arguments that the Christ could not be symbolized by an angel appear to be without foundation. 5. It is consistent with the purpose of the interlude that he should appear not as a judge, or king enthroned, but as the sun-countenanced, rainbow-crowned angel of the covenanted people.

Verse 2

Rev 10:2. The angel had a little book which indicated that the events about to be predicted would not take long and hence would not require a large book to record them. The book was open which signified that the things about to happen were to be made known; that their account was not a sealed book as the one in chapter 2. It denoted further that the Bible which had been closed to the people by Rome would soon be opend again so that all might read. The sea and earth comprise the entire surface of the globe and the symbol means that all the world would be affected by what was soon to occur and which would be announced presently. Comments by Foy E. Wallace Verse 2. 5. In his hand a little book opened: This book in Rev 5:7 was "sealed and no man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth was able to open it." (Rev 5:2) But the "Lion of the tribe of Judah"--the Lamb in the midst of the throne--"hath prevailed to open the book and to loose the seals thereof." (Rev 5:5) It was therefore no longer sealed, no longer a mystery, but now an open book. When it was sealed it seemed large. Unknown things are greater in seeming proportion than the things that are known. They become simplified and minimized in proportion to the knowledge of them. When the seals within the book were loosed, or revealed, it became an open book, and it was a little book compared with knowing and not knowing its contents. 6. Right foot upon the sea . . . left foot upon the land: The land and the sea were the territories of their persecutors. Later the Jewish persecutors of Palestine were described as "the beast of the land" and the Roman persecutor was designated "the beast of the sea." The sea beast was said to exercise authority over the land beast, based on the universal sway of Rome's power. But the mighty angel stood with one foot on the land, the other on the sea, declaring his power over both as Lord of the land and of the sea.

Verse 3

Rev 10:3. The angel's voice was like that of a lion in that it was strong and itself heard far and near. We know from the context that the angel's cry was the announcement that the Bible was again to be given to the people. Of course that would be unwelcome news to the heads of the apostate church and it was natural for them to protest. That called for seven thunders from the "seven-hilled" city of Rome. Comments by Foy E. Wallace Verse 3. 7. A great voice as a lion roareth: The Lamb in the midst of the throne, once slain, who was the Lion of the tribe of Judah, who had conquered to open the book and loose its seals, now came as the "mighty angel" to announce the near end of the things in the book; and when his "loud voice" heralded the angel's proclamation, seven thunders uttered their voices, as signs of revolutionary events that would presage the end. Thunder was regarded as the voice of God. (Job 37:2; Psa 18:13; Psa 81:7; Isa 30:31-32) Thunder attended the inauguration of the law. (Exo 19:16) When the people heard God's voice, they said it thundered. (Joh 12:29) It was a symbol of divine power in the executions of vengeance on evil-doers. (2Sa 2:10; 2Sa 22:14; Isa 29:6) And that was its significance here.

Verse 4

Rev 10:4. Not realizing the deception there was in the protests, John was about to write down what the thunderous voices said. (We remember he was told in chapter 1:19 to write the things that should be thereafter•.) But the Lord understood the motive of the seven voices coming from the headquarters of the "man of sin," and He caused a voice to instruct John not to record them but to seal them up. Comments by Foy E. Wallace Verse 4. 8. Seal up those things which the seven thunders uttered and write them not: The book of seven seals was opened, and its seals were loosed; the trumpets of the seven angels were sounded; but the seven thunders were sealed up and John was commanded to write them not. The things which the seven thunders uttered and which John was ready to transcribe, related to the things of the future not disclosed in the seals nor proclaimed in the trumpets, neither contained in the vials yet to be poured. They were things outside the realm of revelation, beyond all human knowledge or finite information. The sealing up of the thunders signified that there is a category of the infinite in God's dealings with men and nations which can never be revealed. Much therefore, after all the seals were loosed and all the trumpets had sounded and all the woes were pronounced and all the vials poured, must remain enfolded and unrevealed. There are in the nature of things of the infinite and the hereafter not within the scope of God's revelation to man. It is in keeping with the principle revealed to Moses, that "the secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law." (Deu 29:29) There are things connected with the counsels and purposes of God, and the reasons for his dispensations with reference to them, which are hidden in his own bosom, not to be pried into by any man or order of men. What the voices of the seven thunders uttered cannot be known, and for any man to undertake to explain what John was forbidden to write, would be presumption. The voices of the thunders evidently belonged to that region of "visions and revelations of the Lord" to which Paul referred as "unspeakable words not lawful for a man to utter." (2Co 12:1-21) The command of the voice from heaven to seal up and write not, with no conditions, restrictions or limitations of time has in it a finality that prohibits the explanation that makes the voices of the thunders the mystic symbols of imperial edicts and papal bulls of the medieval centuries, and the continuous revelation of the history of Christianity to the end of the world.

Verse 5

Rev 10:5. In lifting up his hand the angel mentioned before (in verse 2) was preparing to make an oath. (There is no inconsistency in this, for• he was an angel of God and man only is forbidden to make oaths.) Rev 10:6. Should be time no longer. Much misuse has been of this passage. It is not uncommon to hear• a preacher making an earnest plea to his audience to obey the Gospel while the time is here. That soon the angel of God would place one foot on land and the other on the sea and declare that "time shall be no longer•." They thus make the phrase mean that the last day of the earth has come and hence it will be "the end of time." In the first place the events concerning which the angel uttered the phrase were several centuries prior to the second coming of Christ. In the second place the Bible does not teach there will ever be an end of time, for the word means the same as the word "eternity," and both words simply mean "duration" which is something that had no beginning and will never have an end. The word in our• passage does not mean "time" as being the opposite of "eternity," but it has the same meaning the word would have if a moderator announced to the speaker that his time was up. The Englishman's Greek New Testament renders the word "delay." The passage means that the events being predicted--the events getting ready for the Reformation--were about due to start and that there would be no longer delay in the matter. Comments by Foy E. Wallace Verses 5-6. 9. That there should be time no longer: The words of finality spoken by the angel required that they be sealed with the binding force of an oath. In the Old Testament God is said to have sworn by himself. (Gen 22:16; Isa 45:23; Psa 110:4; Psa 89:35; Psa 132:11) In the New Testament Peter refers to God having "sworn with an oath" to David. (Act 2:30), and Paul declares in Heb 6:18 that God "confirmed by an oath" his immutable counsel, in which it was "impossible for God to lie." So if the voice from heaven was Christ himself, or "another mighty angel" there was nothing inconceivable or incompatible that he should sware by the eternal Creator of heaven itself, and the earth and the sea, "and the things that therein are." Standing on the sea and the earth, as if to survey the full sweep of all human powers, Roman and Jewish, the angel proclaimed that there should be time no longer. The time for the seventh angel to sound the seventh trumpet was near, and the culminating events would be no longer delayed. This angelic proclamation did not refer to the end of all time, but rather to the end of the events signified in the vision. The word time here means delay, the time, or delay, of these events was about to end. In Rev 6:9-10 the souls under the altar cried "how long, 0 Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?" In the response to this prayer, in verse 11, "it was said unto them that they should rest yet for a little season"--that is, wait for a time, until the vision "should be fulfilled." That "little season" was about to end with the approaching proclamation of the seventh angel, the time should be no longer. The prayer of the martyrs for avenging judgment was about to be answered and would speedily come with no more delay. In Rev 8:3 the prayers of all the saints are seen superadded to the cry of martyrs. The visions of the seven seals and the seven trumpets, with their intermissions, have been unfolded, and the vision having reached "the days of the seventh angel" there should be no more delay.

Verse 7

Rev 10:7. The mystery of God refers to the work of the Reformation that was to restore the Bible to the people. The seventh angel has not yet sounded, but he soon will because the preceding verse says there was not to be any further delay. By the time this seventh angel gets his message sounded the complete work of the Reformation will be done, that is, the prediction will be completed. Of course an inspired prophet speaks of things in the present tense even though he is speaking of events long in the future. John was seeing this vision in the first century and the Reformation came in the sixteenth, but an inspired angel can speak of such an event as having taken place. Such is the meaning of this verse when it says that when he shall begin to sound, the mystery of God should be finished. (See Rev 11:15.) Comments by Foy E. Wallace Verse 7. The days of the seventh angel--Rev 10:7. 1. Days of the voice: This was a reference to the end of the Jewish state (Mat 24:3), which was politically the end of the old Jewish dispensation, the days when the last trumpet was about to sound the note of doom--when he shall begin to sound--hence, in the days of the last events fulfilling these visions. They were fulfilled in that generation as foretold by the words of Jesus to his disciples. (Mat 23:36 and Mat 24:34) 2. The mystery of God finished: This mystery of God is that divine plan of Eph 1:9-10, which was to reach its fulfillment "in the dispensation of the fulness of times," and here the reference is to the "finish" of all events connected with its success. (Mat 24:14) And it was accomplished for Jesus said, "this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world as a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come." In verse 31, of this discourse of Mat 24:1-51, the Lord said that after these events of the destruction of Jerusalem he would "send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet" to "gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other." These statements in Matthew and Revelation are parallel in meaning and alike had reference to the universal expansion of the kingdom of Christ, after the fall of Judaism and the end of the Jewish state. The destruction of Jerusalem, the demolition of the temple, the downfall of Judaism, and the end of Jewish state, which politically and practically ended the Jewish dispensation, were all a part of the divine mystery. The Mosaic law had been "nailed to the cross," "abolished" and "taken away"; but the Jewish state continued, and in that sense the Jewish dispensation functioned, until "the days of the voice of the seventh angel" which sounded the final doom. This was all in and part of "the mystery of God," the divine scheme of things, which was "finished" in the culmination of these events. 3. As declared to the prophets: These things were all declared to the Old Testament prophets and witness borne in the prophecies to their fulfillment. (Rom 16:25-26; 1Pe 1:10-12) These were the things that were "manifested in last times"--the end of the Jewish world. (1Pe 1:20) The old prophets contemplated all of the things pertaining to the kingdom of Christ, both of its inauguration and its expansion. (Gen 49:1; Isa 2:2-5; Mic 4:1-4; Dan 2:42-45; Dan 10:14; Zec 14:1-21) The revelations made known to the prophets were a declaration in advance of the things to come--a witness to them--and found fulfillment in the events herein disclosed.

Verse 8

Rev 10:8. This little book is the one mentioned in verse 2 which contains predictions of things about to begin. John was the human agency of God for delivering the message to the world, and hence it was appropriate for him to receive the book at the bidding of the angel. We note two angels are involved in this episode, the one that held the book and the other one that sounded the instructions to John. Rev 10:9. In obedience to the instructions of the angel John went and requested the other angel to give him the little book. As the angel delivered it to him he told him to eat it up. This was a symbol and indicated that John was to be inspired to report to the people. A similar instance of such a symbolic inspiration of a prophet is in Eze 3:1-3. The book produced two opposite effects upon the prophet although he had only one body to absorb it. There was nothing inconsistent in John's personal attitude toward the word of God, but the world would not take the same stand in view of the unpleasant things it contains in its teachings. Therefore John was required to have a bodily experience that represented both his and the people's reaction to the word. See the note about "prophets acting" at 1Ki 20:35 in Volume 2 of Bible Commentary. Rev 10:10. John took the book and ate it with the results that he was told what would happen within his body. Comments by Foy E. Wallace Verses 8-10. The eating of the little book--Rev 10:8-10. 1. The voice from heaven: The voice again is the voice of verse 4; and from heaven identifies it with the voice from midst the throne, Rev 9:13. It was the voice of direct authority from God, not through any agents, angels, creatures, elders or mediaries of the visions--but from God himself. 2. In the mouth sweet--in the belly bitter. The symbol of eating a book is found in the apocalypses of Ezekiel, with the same effects as described in this vision. (Eze 2:9; Eze 3:7; Eze 3:14). The eating of this little book was in the mouth sweet as honey, as the precious flavor ascribed to the words of God. (Psa 19:10; Jer 15:16) The effects of eating the book were both sweet and bitter. John said: In my mouth sweet--in my belly bitter. The assurances and promises of victory and of reward were "sweet as honey." The contemplation of such triumphs produced the sweetness of joy and rejoicing; but the realization of the awful pronouncements fraught with fearful woes, turned the sweetness to bitterness in the belly, by reason of further contemplation on the tragic sufferings and sorrow, trials and tribulation they all would be called upon to endure in faithfulness, even in martyrdom, to receive the promised crown.

Verse 11

Rev 10:11. We are sure that the effects of eating the book included the reactions of the world, for this verse refers to the subject in direct connection with his eating it. The instruction explains why he was to eat the book, and why it had the mentioned effects, namely, that he was to prophesy again before many peoples, etc. Incidentally, this last statement shows that the one in verse 6 that there should be time no longer, does not mean that the end of the world had come. Comments by Foy E. Wallace Verse 11. The commission to evangelize--Rev 10:11. 1. Thou must prophesy again: Here is the clear indication that John survived the Patmos revelation. He survived the castastrophe of Jerusalem, to go among the nations, peoples, tongues, kings, proclaiming the passing away of the old things of Judaism and the end of the old system, preaching again the word that concerns the people of all nations. He would himself fulfill Mat 24:31. 2. Before peoples, nations, tongues and kings: To apply the expression prophesy again to the further things in the Revelation does not fit the language used by the angel, before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings. The statement is comparable to the words of Jesus to Saul on the Damascus road in that commission to be executed by Paul, the apostle, recorded in Act 9:15 : "But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel." Furthermore, to make prophesy again mean to continue what he was then doing, and in the same way, would be a disregard for proper use and meaning of words. The passage indicates that John left the scene of these visions and became an active evangelist in many countries, among many peoples and tongues.
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Bibliographical Information
Zerr, E.M. "Commentary on Revelation 10". E.M. Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/znt/revelation-10.html. 1952.