The Mighty Angel (10:1-2)
John sees another mighty angel coming down from heaven. The description of this angel shows us that he is not like the previous angels we have read about in this book. This mighty angel is wrapped in a cloud. Clouds consistently carry the symbolism of judgment in the scriptures.
Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen. (Revelation 1:7 ESV)
Behold, he comes up like clouds; his chariots like the whirlwind; his horses are swifter than eagles— woe to us, for we are ruined! (Jeremiah 4:13 ESV)
For the day is near, the day of the LORD is near; it will be a day of clouds, a time of doom for the nations. (Ezekiel 30:3 ESV)
Therefore, this angel is coming to declare judgment on the earth. Further, this angel is described with a rainbow over his head. The rainbow carries the symbolism of God’s covenant. God’s judgment is about to be unleashed in keeping with God’s covenant that he made with his people. The angel has a similar description to the description of the Son of Man in Revelation 1:15-16. However, we should not think that this angel is Christ. If Revelation wanted to tell us that this is Christ, then the book would not have called this spiritual being an angel. Christ is not an angel and is extensively argued in the scriptures to be different and greater than all the angels (Hebrews 1). The similar language is simply intended to show us that this angel is sent by God to carry out judgment according to God’s word and covenant. The mighty angel has a little scroll open in his hand. We will explain what this scroll is and why the scroll is described as little later on in this chapter. The mighty angel comes down to the earth and sets his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land. We will see the meaning of this imagery later in this chapter also.
Seven Thunders (10:3-4)
The mighty angel calls out with a loud voice and the sound was like a lion roaring. When the angel called out with this loud voice, there were seven thunders than sounded. The seven thunders are apparently similar to the seven seals and the seven trumpets, containing messages of judgment. John is about to write down what the seven thunders said, but a voice from heaven calls down to John. The voice tells John, “Seal up what the seven thunders have said, and do not write it down.” This is the only picture we have in the book of Revelation of some piece of information remaining sealed. It was not for humanity to know the things that the seven thunders revealed. We are not given any clues or any further information about the message of the seven thunders.
The Mighty Angel’s Oath (10:5-7)
The scene returns to the mighty angel who has taken his stand on the sea and on the land. The angel raises his right hand to heaven and swore that there would no longer be delay. What would no longer be delayed? The mystery of God announced by the prophets would be fulfilled. When would this happen? The angel says in the days when the seventh angel blows his trumpet. Remember that we have been listening to the seven trumpets blasting judgment. We have read of six trumpets sounding so far. The mighty angel declares that when the seventh angel sounds his trumpet then it is done. The mystery of God as declared by the prophets will be fulfilled.
To gain further clarity about what is being told to us, we must recognize that this picture is found in Daniel 12. In Daniel 12:7 we see the same angel taking the same stand and taking the same oath.
And I heard the man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the stream; he raised his right hand and his left hand toward heaven and swore by him who lives forever that it would be for a time, times, and half a time, and that when the shattering of the power of the holy people comes to an end all these things would be finished. (Daniel 12:7 ESV)
All the elements of Daniel 12:7 and Revelation 10:5-7 are in parallel. There is only one real difference and that is the timeline. When the angel in Daniel makes his oath, he declares that it was going to be a “time, times, and half a time.” A period of time was going to pass by before these events would unfold. This is the repeated point to Daniel in Daniel 12:9. The words were shut up and sealed until the time of the end. The fulfillment of the prophecy would not happen in the days of Daniel. It would be later. It would be “a time, times, and half a time.” We will talk about the meaning of this time marker, “a time, times, and half a time,” in Revelation 11.
The angel reveals in Daniel what event his oath concerns. Notice the end of verse 7, “…when the shattering of the power of the holy people comes to an end all these things would be finished.” When the angel said these words to Daniel, who were the “holy people?” The holy people was a reference to the physical nation of Israel. Jump up to Daniel 12:1 and you will see the same point.
And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book. (Daniel 12:1 ESV)
Notice that the angel tells Daniel that this prophecy is about his people, that is, the Jewish nation. Those who were written in the book would be delivered from this time of trouble, this great tribulation. Let’s move this message back to Revelation 10. The angel has declared that when the seventh angel blows his trumpet, the things announced by the prophets (particularly with Daniel’s prophecy in mind) will be fulfilled. The angel that told Daniel that there would be delay (a time, times, and half of time) tells John that there will not be a delay now. This angel confirms that our understanding of the locusts in Revelation 9 is correct. We noted in Revelation 9 that the locusts represent a world power destroying another nation in the scriptures (see Joel 2). The logical sense was that the locusts represented the Roman Empire coming against the Jewish nation in 70 AD. Revelation 10 validates this interpretation. We have seen many clues since chapter 6 that the physical Jewish nation was the object of God’s wrath. Jesus also prophesied this doom in Matthew 24 and Luke 21. Paul also noted this coming wrath against the nation of Israel.
For you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews, who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out, and displease God and oppose all mankind by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they might be saved—so as always to fill up the measure of their sins. But God’s wrath has come upon them at last! (1 Thessalonians 2:14–16 ESV)
To sum up the picture so far in Revelation. Revelation 6 told us that there would be partial judgments culminating with final judgment against a nation. Revelation 7 declared that these judgments would not take place until the people of God were sealed. Though Christians would die, they are pictured safe in Christ. Revelation 8-9 revealed the partial judgments occurring against the Jewish nation from 66-69 AD. However, the people did not repent and the nations who saw these judgments did not repent. Therefore, we have seen this mighty angel declare that there will no longer be delay. The final judgment of shattering the nation will take place in the days when the seventh angel blows his trumpet.
The Little Scroll (10:9-11)
The final scene in Revelation 10 concerns the little scroll. In verse 2 we saw the mighty angel holding the little scroll open in his hand. The seven seals have been released by the Lamb and the scroll is now laying open in the hand of the mighty angel. John goes up to the mighty angel and takes the scroll. The angel tells John to eat the scroll. This imagery explains why the scroll is described as a little scroll. John was going to eat this scroll. The scroll whose seals have been opened is described as little so that John can be seen eating the scroll. Why would John be instructed to eat the scroll?
This imagery of eating a scroll is also found in the scriptures. Ezekiel was also told to eat the scroll that was presented to him.
And when I looked, behold, a hand was stretched out to me, and behold, a scroll of a book was in it. And he spread it before me. And it had writing on the front and on the back, and there were written on it words of lamentation and mourning and woe. And he said to me, “Son of man, eat whatever you find here. Eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel.” So I opened my mouth, and he gave me this scroll to eat. And he said to me, “Son of man, feed your belly with this scroll that I give you and fill your stomach with it.” Then I ate it, and it was in my mouth as sweet as honey. (Ezekiel 2:9–3:3 ESV)
Eating the scroll is a picture of being ready to prophesy God’s message. Notice that when Ezekiel eats this scroll he finds it to be sweet as honey in his mouth. The word of God is described as sweet. “More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.” (Psalm 19:10 ESV) Notice that when John eats the scroll he also finds it as sweet as honey in his mouth. However, after he had eaten the scroll his stomach was made bitter. The bitterness comes because of the judgments that are still to come.
Notice that these judgments to come is the point of verse 11. John is told to prophesy about many peoples and nations and languages and kings. Now the prophecies will be about the nations of the earth. These prophecies will begin in chapter 12. John has been prophesying about his own people, the Jewish nation, and its final judgment by God has been declared. However, John is not done. John must continue to prophesy and he will speak about the nations.
God keeps his promises. God keeps his covenant. The prophets even back in the days of Moses declared that the physical nation of Israel would be destroyed for its rebellion against God. Jesus said that God’s wrath was ready to come against the people for their sins. The apostle Paul spoke about its doom as well. Hundreds of years or even thousands of years can pass by since the word of the Lord is spoken. The duration of time does not matter for God will keep his word.
The word of God is sweet to taste. There should be nothing sweeter to us than reading God’s word. It should be our passion. It should be our delight.