The Angel With the Small Scroll (10:1-11)

Submitted by admin on Tue, 2006-10-03 11:05.

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John described the mighty angel he saw descending from heaven as clothed in a cloud, with a halo around his head, a face radiant like the sun, and feet resembling fiery pillars. In his right hand, the angel held a small opened scroll, indicating that its contents were not secret. He placed his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land. This may point to the universal nature of the message contained in the little scroll, for the scroll (though small in comparison with the mighty angel) is a significant feature in this vision. (10:1, 2)

The angel cried out with a powerful voice comparable to a lion’s roar, and then the “seven thunders” (possibly representative of God’s voice in the fullness of its strength) spoke. When about to write the message the seven thunders had uttered, John heard a voice from heaven, instructing him not to do so. This indicates that not all things are revealed and that it is God’s will for certain future developments to remain concealed. Therefore, attempts to map out the future on the basis of the book of Revelation are bound to fail, and there is ample evidence to this effect in the form of failed predictions linked to specific dates. (10:4)

In a number of respects, the descriptions of the angel and the one like a “son of man” are similar. (1:14-16) Victorinus, in his commentary on Revelation (third century), concluded that the mighty angel “is our Lord.” In the centuries since then, others have drawn the same conclusion. It would appear preferable, however, to accept John’s identification at face value. This is especially because, in the book of Daniel, an angel is similarly described. “I saw a man dressed in linen with a belt of fine gold around his waist. His body was like chrysolite, his face shown like lightning, his eyes were like fiery torches, his arms and feet looked like burnished bronze, and his voice sounded like the roar of a multitude.” (Daniel 10:5, 6, NAB)

The strong angel raised his right hand to heaven and swore by the eternal God, the Creator of all things, that there would be no more “time” or delay but that the “mystery of God” would be fulfilled in the days or time when the seventh angel is about to blow his trumpet. Apparently the fulfillment is represented as being simultaneous with the commencement of the trumpet sound. The angel identified the “mystery of God” as having been “announced as glad tidings” to his slaves the prophets. (10:5-7)

The Greek for “announced as glad tidings” is a form of the verb euangelízo, and the related noun euangélion means “evangel,” “glad tidings,” or “good news.” Evidently it relates to the “good news” with its focus on Jesus Christ. Included in that “good news” is the promise of his return in glory to execute justice and deliver his disciples from suffering. (1 Thessalonians 1:9, 10; 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10) Much about the transferal of living believers then on earth and their entrance into the glorified state with Christ has not been revealed, nor has the outcome for all of earth’s inhabitants at that time been disclosed in detail. Moreover, the time (the “day and hour”) for this to occur remains one of the concealed things of God. (Mark 13:32; Acts 1:7; Romans 8:19-23; 1 John 3:2; Revelation 15:3, 4) Especially for suffering believers, however, the announcement that there would be no further delay respecting the fulfillment of the mystery of God is good news, for it means that their distress would end and that all who had demonstrated themselves to be God’s enemies would be overthrown. During all periods of history since the book of Revelation was committed to writing, the angel’s oath-bound assurance that there would be no delay has provided a basis for hope, aiding believers to endure severe trials.

John again heard the same voice from heaven, instructing him to take the opened scroll from the angel’s right hand. When he did so, the angel told him to consume the scroll and that it would be sweet as honey in his mouth but bitter in his stomach. John then found this to be the case. (10:8-10) Evidently his eating the scroll and swallowing it represented his assimilating the message contained in the scroll and may also have included the commission to proclaim the message contained therein. As in the case of the prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel, the sweet taste may have been associated with the joy of the divinely entrusted commission and the blessings promised to God’s faithful servants. Because John was personally affected by the sour or bitter taste, this could indicate that believers would face suffering. In the case of Jeremiah, the message with which he was entrusted as God’s prophet, although a source of joy to him, also brought him much pain and distress, for it was an unpopular message. (Jeremiah 1:9, 10; 15:10-18) Ezekiel, too, faced stubborn resistance when proclaiming the message entrusted to him. (Ezekiel 3:5-9)

John did not identify who next spoke to him. He only related the words directed to him, “You must again prophesy against [epí] peoples and nations and tongues and many kings.” Although the Greek preposition epí basically means “on” or “upon,” the prophesying of judgments to come would favor taking it to mean “against.” A proclamation of judgment, as proved to be the experience of Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and other prophets, would not be favorably received among those to whom it would be directed, and so this “prophesying” seemingly implied something “bitter” or “sour” for all who would be sharing the prophetic message with others.

Note: For verse 7, there are a number of different manuscript readings. The reading “his servants, the prophets,” has considerable manuscript support, although the oldest extant manuscripts (P47, P85, and Codex Sinaiticus) say, “his servants and the prophets.”