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Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible
Revelation 10

 

 

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Verse 1

‘And I saw another strong angel coming down out of heaven arrayed with a cloud, and the rainbow was on his head, and his face was like the sun, and his legs like pillars of fire.’

The effects of the sixth trumpet have not yet ceased (see Revelation 11:14), and it is during this time that the angel declares that there will be delay no longer (Revelation 10:6), for the third woe is coming, and it is the final judgment of God. The measuring of the Temple and the witness of the Two Witnesses occurs as part of this period (Revelation 11:1-13). The Angel of the abyss has been released, but now we have here ‘another strong angel’ in apposition.

‘Another’ may contrast with the angel of the Abyss but it is more likely a reference to the angel in Revelation 5:2 who asked about the opening of the seals. The ‘strong angels’ are probably the ‘chief princes’ (Daniel 10:13), the seven spirits before the throne. This one may be Gabriel (Michael is an archangel (Jude 1:9)), but their names are not important for they must not draw attention away from the Son of Man, the Lamb.

The description of the angel is somewhat similar to that of the Son of Man in chapter 1. Face like the sun, legs like pillars of fire. But this displays the angel’s splendour and glory, it is not sufficient for identification. Compare for example the angel in Daniel 10:6, who was another strong angel, but not the Son of God for he needed help against the angel prince of Persia (Daniel 10:13).

‘Arrayed with a cloud’ draws attention to his specific splendour, for the cloud is a means of shielding such glory (Exodus 19:16; Exodus 24:16; Exodus 40:34 and often). However it may also connect with the rainbow on his head, for God promised that when He saw ‘the rainbow in the clouds’ He would remember His covenant not to blot out all living creatures. So in the light of events we may see this as God renewing that promise. He will not blot out the whole earth. What follows may be awful, but it will be tempered with mercy.


Verses 1-11

The Strong Angel Declares that God’s Time has Come - John is Commanded to Prophesy to Kings and Nations (Revelation 10:1-11).


Verse 2-3

‘And he had in his hand a small scroll open, and he set his right foot on the sea and his left on the earth, and he cried with a great voice like a lion roars, and when he cried the seven thunders uttered their voices.’

We have here a good example as to how time has become irrelevant in the visions of John. He moves from one time sphere to another in vision without any difficulty. Here he seemingly moves on to the time of the end when ‘there will be time no longer’.

The angel is clearly huge and powerful for he bestrides land and sea, demonstrating mastery over both (compare Deuteronomy 11:24). It also demonstrates that he is taking possession in the name of God. The picture is vivid. When the lion is hungry it puts back its head and roars to strike fear into the animal kingdom. This strong angel, having taken possession of land and sea, roars, and heaven and earth tremble (compare Joel 3:16; Jeremiah 25:30-31), and his roar is accompanied by the voices of the seven thunders.

Thunders connected with voices occur in Revelation 4:5; Revelation 8:5; and Revelation 11:19. (Revelation 6:1 and Revelation 14:2 refer only to voices that sound like thunder and can therefore be discounted). Thus the thunders are connected with special moments related to the judgments of God on earth, the opening of the seven seals (Revelation 4:5), the sounding of the seven trumpets (Revelation 8:5) and the opening of the Temple in Heaven for the final pouring out of the seven bowls of the wrath of God (Revelation 11:19 with Revelation 16:1). So the voices of the seven thunders, the divinely perfect and ultimate in thunders, express the severity of what the scroll contains, and relate to the three sets of seven. These are the final stages of all that the seals, trumpets and bowls represent.

‘A small scroll open’. There must be no danger of mistaking this scroll for the one sealed with seven seals so it is said to be a comparatively ‘small’ one. Ezekiel was given a scroll containing ‘lamentations and mournings and woe’ and he had to eat it and it was in his mouth as honey for sweetness (Ezekiel 6:9 to Ezekiel 7:2). John has to do the same with this scroll and it has the same consequences except that this one is then bitter to the stomach. Thus the content is similar to that of Ezekiel’s, except harder to bear. It speaks of lamentation, mournings and woe. The eating of the scroll means devouring its contents. So John, having ‘eaten it’ must ‘prophesy again concerning many peoples and nations and tongues and kings’ as he will do in coming chapters (Revelation 10:11).


Verse 3-4

‘The seven thunders uttered their voices , and when the seven thunders uttered their voices I was about to write, and I heard a voice from Heaven saying, “Seal up the things which the seven thunders uttered and do not write them”.’

It is clear from this verse that John has been recording his visions as he saw them, but this time he is told to desist. In Isaiah 29:11 God declares Israel to be in a spirit of deep sleep so that even their eyes, the prophets, are ‘closed’. All vision has become to them as the words of a scroll that is sealed, that none can understand. Here the world is seen to be in the same state. Their state is such that they will not listen to what the thunders say, so the words of the thunders are sealed. God will not speak to those who will not hear.

This compares with the reason why the Lord spoke in parables, so that those who claim to ‘see’, but will not respond, might not perceive (Matthew 13:13; Mark 4:11-12; Luke 8:10). So this is a pregnant way of saying that as the world is deaf to all God’s pleadings, God withholds His voice. What the seven thunders said was addressed to mankind and not to His people, and is kept secret until the end. (Although Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:4 speaks of being caught up into Paradise and hearing unspeakable words which it is not lawful for a man to utter, it is doubtful if that is the case here. This is speaking of judgments so devastating that their description is withheld).


Verses 5-7

‘And the angel whom I saw standing on the sea and on the earth lifted up his right hand to Heaven and swore by him who lives for ever and ever, who created the heaven and the things that are in it, and the earth and the things that are in it, and the sea and the things that are in it, that there shall no longer be delay. But in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, then is finished the mystery of God, according to the good tidings which he declared to his servants the prophets.’

Compare the man clothed in linen in Daniel 12:7 who raises both right hand and left hand and swears by Him Who lives for ever. He too forecasts the end. So the hardness of men’s hearts means that God will no longer delay. God’s longsuffering is now at an end (2 Peter 3:9). He Who lives for ever and ever and created all things, to whom vast ages are but a trifle, will wait no longer. The angel’s stance is itself a declaration of the final takeover. All of heaven, earth and sea belongs to the God Who created it, and now He will take possession of His own.

The mention of the mystery of God revealed to the prophets brings to mind the words of Amos, ‘surely the Lord will do nothing unless he reveals his secret to his servants the prophets’ (Amos 3:7). God had revealed to the Old Testament prophets what he would do, but it was in veiled form for they could not have understood the whole, it was a ‘mystery’ to be more fully revealed. They knew it would be glorious. They knew it would bring in the triumph of God. They were aware of it as ‘good tidings’ but they were not fully aware of the implications.

It was a mystery which Jesus Christ, the greatest Prophet of all, and the great New Testament prophets, Paul and the other Apostles and prophets, were able to more fully reveal in their proclamation of ‘the good tidings of the Gospel’. (The early church saw prophecy as continued in their midst). As Paul puts it ‘Now to him who is able to establish you in accordance with my Gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, in accordance with the revelation of the mystery, which has been kept in silence through times eternal but is now made clear and open, even by means of the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the Eternal God’ (Romans 16:25-26). What they revealed of what the earlier prophets originally declared will now be brought to completion.

‘There will be time (or delay) no longer.’ No longer time is to be allowed. God has reached the end of His longsuffering. Thus there will no longer be delay.


Verses 8-11

‘And the voice which I heard from Heaven, I heard again speaking to me and saying, “Go, take the scroll which is open in the hand of the angel who stands on the sea and on the earth”. And I went to the angel telling him that he should give me the small scroll, and he says to me’ “Take it, and eat it up. And it will make your stomach bitter but in your mouth it will be as sweet as honey”. And I took the small scroll from the angel’s hand, and ate it up, and it was in my mouth sweet as honey, and when I had eaten it my stomach was made bitter. And they say to me, “You must prophesy again concerning many peoples and nations, and tongues and kings”.’

John was told that he had to take the scroll from the angel and eat it. In other words he was to devour its contents (it is an open scroll). The scroll was sweet to him because it declared the doings of God, but when it was devoured it was bitter because of the awfulness of its message. Whether he did actually eat it or whether the eating of it was simply a way of describing his devouring of its contents does not really matter. What mattered was that he did ‘devour’ its contents and the effect it had on him. John does not find the words of judgment easy to declare. No preacher should preach the judgment of God easily, he should always be aware of a certain unhappiness in what he has to proclaim. When men declare the judgments of God too glibly or too harshly they have become unworthy messengers. (For further on the small scroll see on Revelation 10:2).

‘They say to me’. The voice from Heaven and the strong angel both stress to him his mission. They understand his feelings, but urge him to be faithful and strong. As we move into the second part of the book we will find his prophecies concerning these peoples and nations, and tongues and kings, for many are involved in his words.

 


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Bibliography Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Revelation 10:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/revelation-10.html. 2013.

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Saturday, December 7th, 2019
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