Dr. Richard L. Strauss
February 25, 1979
As we study the book of Revelation chapter by chapter, we can feel the rising intensity of sin and of suffering. The wrath of God that's been stored through the ages is being unleashed in judgment against sin. And Satan is causing great persecution in order to terrorize and intimidate the inhabitants of earth into submission to him. It's the time in the future that Jesus called the Great Tribulation, and John called in Revelation 6:17 the great day of God's wrath.
We've learned in our study of this book thus far that many will see the hand of God and will trust Jesus Christ as Savior (Revelation 7:14). There will be a world-wide revival. But we also learn that most of those who trust Christ in that day will lose their lives for their testimony (Revelation 6:9; 7:14; 13:15). We also learned in our last message, in Revelation 9:21, that others will harden their hearts against the Lord, and will only sink deeper into demon worship, idol worship, murder, occultism and narcotics, sexual immorality, and thievery.
When we reach that point in the narrative we wonder how long it can go on. How much suffering can the earth tolerate? How much longer can God, who is longsuffering, bear with the increasing corruption and depravity of the human race? How much longer will He hold back His final devastating judgment on sin? How much longer will He lovingly extend the invitation to accept His grace? "How much longer?" is the question that keeps ringing in our ears by the time we reach chapter 10 of this book. A mighty angel has the answer, and we meet him as chapter 10 opens.
Keep in mind that this is another parenthesis in the narrative of the book. We saw a parenthesis between the sixth and seventh seals (chapter 7) in which was described two things: the 144,000 sealed servants of Jehovah and the multitude of saved saints from all nations. Now we have a second parenthesis between the sixth and seventh trumpets (Revelation 10:1--11:14) in which is described two more things: the mighty angel with the little book, and the two witnesses slain and raised from the dead.
We're going to meet the angel today. Chapter 10 is entirely about the mighty angel. We're going to read about his dominion, his declaration, and his directions.
1. The Dominion of the Mighty Angel
"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. 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" (Revelation 10:1-2).
There is a great debate over the identity of this mighty angel. Some reputable Bible scholars have insisted that this is Christ, and with good reason. For one thing, he comes down from heaven. That's where Christ is. Secondly, he is clothed with a cloud. Clouds in Scripture are often symbolic of the glory of God (see Exodus 40:34; Leviticus 16:2; Psalm 97:2; Matthew 17:5; Acts 1:9; Luke 21:27; Revelation 1:7). Third, a rainbow was upon his head. While this is a different rainbow than the emerald rainbow round the throne in Revelation 4:3, it is nevertheless the symbol of God's glory and grace (Ezekiel 1:28; Genesis 9:12-13). Fourth, his face was as though it were the sun. In Revelation 1:16 the countenance of Christ was as the sun shining in its strength. Fifth, his feet are like pillars of fire. The vision of the Lord Jesus in Revelation 1:15 depicted His feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace. Sixth, he holds a scroll in his hand. The last one to have the scroll in this book was the Lamb of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, who took it from the hand of the Father in Revelation 5:7.
But in spite of all this evidence, the argument is unconvincing. There are two Greek words for "another," one meaning "another of the same kind," and the second meaning "another of a different kind." If this angel were Jesus Christ we would certainly expect to find the second term used, for He would be an angel vastly different from this blowing the trumpets, or any other angel in this book for that matter. They are all created beings. He is the uncreated, eternally existing Son of God. Yet John uses the word that means "another of the same kind." This is an angel, not Jesus Christ.
We've met angels throughout this book. We met a strong angel in Revelation 5:2 who cried "Who is worthy to open the scroll, and to loose its seals?" Now John uses the very same words in the original (with the addition of the word "another") and it is difficult to escape the conclusion that in Revelation 10:2 he saw another of these great and glorious beings created by God to serve Him day and night, the very same kind he saw in Revelation 5:2. And like that first strong angel in chapter 5, this second strong angel in chapter 10 is associated with a scroll.
But even though this is an angel, not Jesus Christ, we cannot escape the symbol of glory and power and authority. This angel is the personal emissary of the eternal God. He bears the insignias of his divine appointment and divine mission: the cloud, the rainbows, a face shining like the sun, and feet like pillars of fire. The importance of his mission as it relates to the earth is signified by his stance with the right foot upon the sea and the left foot upon the earth. It is a position of authority and supremacy, a position of dominion and power.
When he cries out with a loud voice it sounds like a lion roaring (verse 3), again a picture of his prestige and power. And when he cries out, seven thunders utter their voices. Evidently John saw or understood what these seven thunders symbolized, but as he was about to write it down, he heard a voice from heaven saying "Seal up those things which the seven thunders uttered, and write them not" (verse 4b).
Doesn't that sort of bother you? I mean, here John is, about to tell us about the seven thunders and God says, "Don't tell them. I don't want them to know that." Our sovereign God has not seen fit to tell us every detail about the events of the last days. He has revealed to us just what He wants us to know, and for some reason He has not seen fit to explain to us the meaning of the voices of the seven thunders. We can only say that whatever they mean, they certainly add to the drama, the suspense, and the awesomeness of this scene, and to the dignity and authority of the mighty angel before us.
I think there may be a lesson for us in this command to seal up the things which the seven thunders uttered. This is the only thing in this book which has been sealed. In Revelation 22:10 God said to John, "Seal not the words of the prophecy of this book." Generally speaking, this is a book which can be understood by Spirit-filled Christians. It is an unveiling of the truth, not a hiding of the truth. It's the revelation of Jesus Christ and of His dealing with the earth in a future day. God is revealing to us future events. But He has not seen fit to tell us everything.
The lesson tucked away in chapter 10 with the sealed thunders is simply that: God doesn't want us to know everything. He knew it would be best for us not to know.
This shouldn't surprise us. Isaiah 55:8-9 makes it perfectly clear that God's ways and God's thoughts are infinitely higher than ours. We cannot expect to understand them all. Paul uttered, "Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!" (Romans 11:33). The wise Elihu affirms in Job 37:5, "God thunders marvelously with His voice; He does great things which we cannot comprehend."
We don't know everything that God has done or that God will do. I find that some young believers, particularly, get upset by that. They become impatient with God because He has not told them what they want to know. Frankly, to fret and pine over what God has purposely kept from our understanding is foolishness, when we have only begun to tap the riches of what He has revealed. We ought to spend time reading and applying what we do understand. Satan wants us to worry about what we can't understand and what we can't explain. God wants us to enjoy what He has graciously and freely made known.
You know, there is one more little lesson that I get out of this. This isn't what the verse is about, but I think it provides an application. That is that when people read about or preach about the book of Revelation, they do so much speculating about how current events are fulfilling these Biblical prophecies, or speculating as to how things we see on the scene today shall fulfill these prophecies. I don't think God wants us to do that. It's quite possible that some of the modern inventions we see are going to be the means of fulfilling the revelation but I don't know whether they are or nott. It's not really edifying to speculate on that. God doesn't tell us. So let's not get too carried away with speculating. Let's just look at what He has told us, and appreciate it and apply it to our lives.
2. The Declaration of the Mighty Angel
Well, having seen the dominion of this mighty angel, let us look at his declaration.
"The angel whom I saw standing on the sea and on the land raised up his hand to heaven"--lifting his hand toward heaven is the sign of a solemn oath--"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" (Revelation 10:5-6).
Now these verses indicate to my way of thinking that this is another reason why this angel is not Jesus Christ. One who takes a solemn oath swears by one greater than himself. Although on one occasion God swore by Himself since He could swear by no greater (Hebrew 6:13), every indication here is that the angel swears by someone other than himself. He swears by the Creator, who is the Lord Jesus Christ (John 1:3; Colossians 1:16), and so he must be a lower being than the Lord Jesus.
But what is he declaring with such a solemn oath? Listen! "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" (Revelation 10:6c-7). What is this mystery of God that is about to be completed? There are many mysteries referred to in the Scripture. But what has been more of a mystery to every saint of God through the ages of human history than the patience and longsuffering of our God with sin and sinners? Why is God so patient with sin? Why does He delay in punishing sin and Satan? Why does He delay in dealing with oppression and poverty on the earth? Why doesn't God do something? Why does God delay?
The Apostle Peter reminds us of his longsuffering in the days of Noah (1 Peter 3:20). The prophets continually reminded their rebellious countrymen of God's longsuffering with them, and warned them that it would not continue forever (see Isaiah 5:1-7). In the synagogue at Lystra Paul tells us that God has allowed all nations to walk in their own ways (Acts 14:16). From Mars Hill in Athens he said, "And the times of this ignorance God overlooked" (Acts 17:30). Men have gone their own way and turned their backs on God; they have freely indulged every fleshly desire, and openly ridiculed the laws of God. They have filled the earth with their wickedness and sin. And God has patiently waited, lovingly and graciously inviting them to receive His Son. He continues to wait today, as Peter clearly asserts. "The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness, but that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9).
Even this book of Revelation, filled as it is with judgment, contains evidence of God's longsuffering. From the very beginning of the book we have seen evidences that His final judgment on sin was imminent. And yet He has held back the full outpouring of his fury of His wrath against sin. We saw His judgment begin with the seals, but between the sixth and the seventh there was a pause, silence in heaven (Revelation 8:1), and sinners will have yet another opportunity to trust Jesus Christ.
He's waited for you to respond to His offer of grace. He could be delaying His judgment and these final days for you! He's tolerated your sin and rebellion for all these years, and still He loves you and offers you the free gift of eternal salvation in the person of His Son, if only you will accept Him.
But when we reach this point in Revelation chapter 10, the waiting is over. There is no more delay. This mighty angel in chapter 10 swears with a solemn oath by the Creator of the universe "that there should be delay no longer." God's patience and longsuffering with Satan, and with sin, and with sinners is about exhausted. The mystery of God will be finished. Satan's sway over the earth will be finished; his freedom to capture men's allegiance will be completed. Satan and his followers will be judged. Sin will be destroyed. And Jesus Christ will establish His kingdom of righteousness and peace on earth, just as the prophets of old predicted (see Isaiah 11; Jeremiah 31). The mystery of God will be finished, as He declared to His servants, the prophets.
When the seventh trumpet sounds, it begins a series of judgments called the bowls, or the vials. The bowl judgments come in rapid succession and lead up to the culmination of the ages and the full devastation of God's wrath against sin and sinners: the return of Jesus Christ to the earth. No more delay.
There are many today who scoff at the idea of the second coming of Christ. Like the evil servant in our Lord's parable in Matthew 24:48 they say "The Lord delays His coming." Peter warned us that there would be folks like that. "Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying, 'Where is the promise for his coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation'" (2 Peter 3:3-4). But when the mighty angel makes his authoritative declaration during the Great Tribulation, there is no more delay. The last chain of events will now begin that shall quickly culminate in God's final judgment on sin and Christ's glorious kingdom on earth.
3. The Directions of the Mighty Angel
There is one more important thing in this story of the mighty angel. You remember from verse 2 that he had in his hand a little scroll, open (literally "having been opened," perfect passive participle). In verse 8, John is instructed by a voice from heaven to go and take that scroll, the one having been opened and in the hand of the angel who stands upon the sea and upon the earth.
"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'" (Revelation 10:8).
Now just what is this little scroll? Once again, there is some disagreement. If this is your first time studying the book of Revelation, you're learning that there are many disagreements about what some things mean. I have many commentaries on Revelation in my library and I find it interesting to read about how many different viewpoints there are on some passages. I try to be fair by telling you when there are differing opinions--and then I tell you the way it really is!!
This is one of those passages. There has been much debate between Bible scholars as to whether or not this is the same scroll as the one in Revelation 5:1.
"And I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a scroll written inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals" (Revelation 5:1).
Those who say it is different note that the one in 5:1 is sealed, while this one is open (Revelation 10:2). They note furthermore that the word for the scroll in 10:2 (biblaridion) is different from the one in chapter 5 (biblios). It is the diminutive form, rightly translated "little scroll." But may I remind you first of all that the scroll of 5:1 was later opened (6:1), and when John sees it in the hand of the mighty angel he properly describes it as "having been opened." Furthermore, many very reliable ancient manuscripts use the very same word in 10:8 to describe this scroll as the word in 5:1, biblios, rather than the diminutive biblaridion which is used in 10:2.
So the different word is really of no consequence. John uses them interchangeably. I believe the scroll we see in the hand of the mighty angel is the very same scroll we have seen before in the book of Revelation. Now, I was kidding a moment ago; I don't want to be dogmatic about this. But I do think it's the same scroll. It describes God's prophetic program which will bring all things to their consummation in Christ. It is God's Word, particularly His Word about the future judgment on sin and the establishment of Christ's kingdom on earth. This is the scroll which John is instructed to take from the hand of the angel in Revelation 10:8.
The voice which gave John those instructions was the voice of God. John wastes no time in obeying it. In verse 9 he goes to the angel and asks for the scroll. The angel gives it to him and gives John some additional directions:
"Take and eat it; and it will make your stomach bitter, but it will be as sweet as honey in your mouth" (Revelation 10:9b).
You know, the Word of God is likened symbolically to food. The Psalmist said, "How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!" (Psalm 119:103). Jeremiah said, "Your words were found, and I ate them, and Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart; for I am called by Your name, O Lord God of hosts" (Jeremiah 15:16). Peter likens it to milk, the most perfect food (1 Peter 2:2). John's experience of eating the word in this vision is very similar to that of the prophet Ezekiel. I think it will help us in our study of Revelation to turn back to Ezekiel 3:
"And He said to me, 'Son of man, feed your belly, and fill your stomach with this scroll that I give you.' So I ate, and it was in my mouth like honey in sweetness" (Ezekiel 3:3).
Oh, listen, Christian! Have you come to know the sweetness and satisfaction of eating the Word of God? We're talking about reading the Word, studying the Word, memorizing the Word, meditating upon the Word, applying the Word to every aspect of your life, and obeying the Word implicitly. As you may well know, it is the only way to grow in your spiritual life. The Word is spiritual food, and only as we digest is, assimilate it into our very being, and meditate upon it, will we grow spiritually. Many Christians who wonder why they don't grow, if they're honest, would have to attribute it to this very thing: They haven't yet learned to eat the Word of God.
But that isn't the end of it. In Ezekiel 3:4, "Then He said to me: 'Son of man, go to the house of Israel and speak with My words to them.'"
God's Word was not only a life-giving, soul-satisfying substance for Ezekiel himself, but it contained a solemn message for the nation Israel: a call to repentance, and a warning of judgment for those who will refuse. This message of judgment was not easy for Ezekiel. In verse 14 we read, "So the Spirit lifted me up and took me away, and I went in bitterness, in the heat of my spirit; but the hand of the Lord was strong upon me." Bitterness of spirit. Ezekiel has just eaten the Word of God--that is, he's appropriated to his life--but when he goes to deliver it, he says he does it with bitterness of spirit.
Now go back to Revelation chapter 10. I think this passage in Ezekiel explains John's experience in Revelation. The scroll was sweet in John's mouth, but it turned to bitterness in his stomach (verse 10). Why this bitterness? Could it not be the unhappiness of announcing judgment? We do not delight in God's judgment on sinners. We are gratified to know that God is going to destroy sin and God is going to put Satan away forever. But how can we ever be happy over the people who have refused to accept God's grace and who will be judged forever? That grieves God and it grieves us. It's not a happy message. God's Word is sweet, but there is a bitter element to it and we can't avoid it. While we must proclaim the message in love and graciousness, we must proclaim it. The bitter with the sweet.
Even though the message is hard to proclaim, it will be proclaimed. "He said to me, you must prophesy again about many peoples and nations and tongues and kings" (Revelation 10:11).
"John, there's so much more to say. Get out your pencil and keep writing." There's more we need to know--about peoples, nations, tongues, and kings. And John did it. John wrote it, and we must proclaim it. The rest of this book testifies to John's faithfulness in doing what God told him to do through this angel.
How about us? Are we faithful in sharing the message God has committed to us to share? We live in the day of God's grace, the day when God is delaying, when His long-suffering and patience with sinners is being made known throughout the earth. Are we doing our part? Are we sharing with those with whom we come in contact the message of God's grace? They day is coming when there will be no more delay. Let's take advantage of the delay now and be faithful in sharing the message of God's grace. Let's pray.
Father, thank You for this revelation of things to come. We pray that it may challenge us to not just think about things to come but things as they are right here and now, and a world in need of the Gospel. And then, God, help us to do our part to reach them. You said we are Your witnesses. Lord, if we are to be Your witnesses, then take the seal off of our mouths and give us holy boldness coupled with a gracious spirit as we faithfully witness to Your saving grace. For Jesus' sake. Amen.
Continue to RV-09A: The Two Witnesses