A. The mighty angel.
1. (1) A mighty angel comes down from heaven.
I saw still another mighty angel coming down from heaven, clothed with a cloud. And a rainbow was on his head, his face was like the sun, and his feet like pillars of fire.
a. I saw still another mighty angel: Revelation 9 left off with the sounding of the sixth of seven trumpets, which ushered in the end of all things. Now, instead of the seventh trumpet, we have another interlude until Revelation 11:15.
i. These interludes serve a dramatic purpose, but also show mercy in allowing more opportunity for repentance. It is as if God brought things to the brink, then pulled back a little to grant mankind more time to repent.
b. Another mighty angel coming down from heaven: Many have identified this mighty angel, this messenger, as Jesus because some of the imagery also applies to Him. Revelation 1:15-16 also describes Jesus with His countenance… like the sun shining in its strength.
i. Yet angels are never clearly identified with Jesus in the Book of Revelation or in the New Testament, though He is clearly associated with the Angel of the Lord in the Old Testament. A better identification is with the angel known as Michael because there are also similarities to this mighty angel and to Michael as he is described in Daniel 12:1 and 12:6-7.
ii. Whoever his exact identity, “clearly this angel has come from the very presence of God” (Barclay), and he has great might and authority.
c. A rainbow was on his head: Not only is the rainbow a reminder of God’s promise to man, but it is also a natural result when the sun shines through a cloud.
2. (2-3) The angel cries out, and seven thunders utter their voices.
He had a little book open in his hand. And he set his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land, and cried with a loud voice, as when a lion roars. When he cried out, seven thunders uttered their voices.
a. He had a little book open in his hand: Is this little book the same as the scroll no one except Jesus could open in Revelation 5:1-7? If one takes the mighty angel to be Jesus, then it very well could be. But John used different words to describe the scroll of Revelation 5:1 and the little book written of here. It is probably best to see them as different, yet probably closely related. The little book is perhaps an short version of the disposition of all things, the portion that John himself will see and write about.
i. “The contents of the little book are nowhere revealed in Revelation, but they seem to represent in this vision the written authority given to the angel to fulfill his mission.” (Walvoord)
ii. Clarke on the little book: “Meaning probably some design of God long concealed, but now about to be made manifest. But who knows what it means?”
b. He set his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land: The angel’s stance projects his authority over both land and sea. His authority is either direct (if the mighty angel is Jesus), or indirect (if this is indeed an angelic being as a messenger of God)..
i. His stance “indicates complete authority over the entire earthly situation.” (Walvoord)
ii. He has his feet on both land and sea “to show that he had the command of each, and that his power was universal, all things being under his feet.” (Clarke)
c. When he cried out, seven thunders uttered their voices: This relates the same idea of the thunderous voice of God as described in Psalm 29, seven times repeating the phrase the voice of the Lord.
i. The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders; the Lord is over many waters. The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is full of majesty. The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars, yes, the Lord splinters the cedars of Lebanon. He makes them also skip like a calf, Lebanon and Sirion like a young wild ox. The voice of the Lord divides the flames of fire. The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness; the Lord shakes the Wilderness of Kadesh. The voice of the Lord makes the deer give birth, and strips the forests bare; and in His temple everyone says, “Glory!” (Psalm 29:3-9)
3. (4) John is commanded not to write what the thunders said.
Now when the seven thunders uttered their voices, I was about to write; but I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, “Seal up the things which the seven thunders uttered, and do not write them.”
a. I was about to write… do not write them: Of course, this irritates many commentators and sets speculation running wild. What did they say that John must not tell us?
b. Do not write them: If John was not permitted to tell us what they said, why should he even record the incident? One result of it should be to let us know there are secrets in the prophetic scenario, mysteries that should keep our exposition and prediction humble.
i. “This illustrates the principle that while God has revealed much, there are secrets which God has not seen fit to reveal to man at this time.” (Walvoord)
ii. “Let us not proceed as though all has been revealed.” (L. Morris)
4. (5-7) No more delay.
The angel whom I saw standing on the sea and on the land raised up his hand to heaven and swore by Him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and the things that are in it, the earth and the things that are in it, and the sea and the things that are in it, that there should be delay no longer, but in the days of the sounding of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, the mystery of God would be finished, as He declared to His servants the prophets.
a. Raised up his hand to heaven and swore by Him who lives forever and ever: The mighty angel gave a solemn oath declaring that the end is irrevocably set in motion, that there should be delay no longer. There was absolutely no turning back.
b. The mystery of God would be finished: What mystery? One important aspect of this mystery is that it has been declared to His servants the prophets.
i. In Biblical vocabulary, a mystery isn’t something no one knows. A mystery is something no one could know unless it was revealed to him. If you could know it by intuition or personal investigation, it isn’t a mystery, because mysteries must be revealed. Therefore, something can be known and still be a mystery in the Biblical sense.
c. The mystery of God: It’s hard to say what this precise mystery of God is, because the phrase – or its equivalent – is used for a many different aspects of God’s plan.
· The ultimate conversion of the Jewish people is called a mystery (Romans 11:25).
· God’s purpose for the church is called a mystery (Ephesians 3:3-11).
· The bringing in of the fullness of the Gentiles is called a mystery (Romans 11:25).
· The living presence of Jesus in the believer is called the mystery of God (Colossians 1:27-2:3).
· The gospel itself is called the mystery of Christ (Colossians 4:3).
d. The mystery of God: In this context, the mystery of God probably refers to the unfolding of His resolution of all things, the finishing of His plan of the ages.
i. “The mystery of God which is declared as subject to fulfillment is unfolded therefore in the Old Testament in the many passages which speak of the establishment of the kingdom of God on earth.” (Walvoord)
ii. Possibly, the mystery also regards the great question “Why does God allow Satan and man to rebel and go their own way?” The idea may be that this question, this unanswered mystery, is coming to an end under rule of Jesus. God is beginning the end, the resolution of all things, the gathering together (resolution, summing up) of all things in one in Jesus (Ephesians 1:10).
iii. God freely acknowledges that life today is full of mysteries; but it will not always be so. A day will come when all questions of this age will be answered.
B. John is commissioned to preach.
1. (8-9) Curious instructions.
Then the voice which I heard from heaven spoke to me again and said, “Go, take the little book which is open in the hand of the angel who stands on the sea and on the earth.” So I went to the angel and said to him, “Give me the little book.” And he said to me, “Take and eat it; and it will make your stomach bitter, but it will be as sweet as honey in your mouth.”
a. Take and eat it: John was commanded to take the little book from the mighty angel and actually eat it.
b. Take and eat it: Because John was invited to take the little book, some take this to say that God never forces His revelation on anyone, and we always must be willing to take what He has offered. That may often be the case, but it was not the case with Paul on the road to Damascus.
2. (10-11) A book both sweet and bitter.
Then I took the little book out of the angel’s hand and ate it, and it was as sweet as honey in my mouth. But when I had eaten it, my stomach became bitter. And he said to me, “You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, tongues, and kings.”
a. I took the little book out of the angel’s hand and ate it: In Ezekiel 3:1-3, the prophet was also commanded to eat a scroll, the revelation of God to Israel. “This figure of eating the book is familiar, and suggests the feeding of the soul on the Word of God.” (Morgan)
i. John could only proclaim the Word of God if he had taken it in; “Such an action symbolized the reception of the Word of God into the innermost being as a necessary prerequisite to proclaim it with confidence.” (Johnson)
b. It was as sweet as honey in my mouth. But when I had eaten it, my stomach became bitter: This little book was initially sweet to the taste, but becomes bitter in John’s stomach. “Every revelation of God’s purposes… is ‘bitter-sweet,’ disclosing judgment as well as mercy.” (Swete)
i. “When he came to think upon it, it was either so mysterious that he could not comprehend it, or the matter of it was so sad that it gave him great trouble.” (Poole)
ii. Any effective communicator of God’s Word has experienced both the sweetness and bitterness that is associated with His Word.
iii. Those who believe the church is raptured after the great tribulation argue that the scroll is bitter because the lot of the faithful is bitter in the last days. Mounce is an example of this approach: “The sweet scroll which turns bitter is a message for the church. Before the final triumph believers are going to pass through a formidable ordeal.”
c. You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, tongues, and kings: Whatever the content of the scroll, it is connected to John’s command to prophesy to all men. This is not a message just focused to the church.
i. John’s prophecy spoke of the fate of the entire world, not just one nation, empire or emperor, such as the Roman Empire.
©2019 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission