Mike: October 1, 2009
Scripture text for this study: Revelation 10
[Notes from Adam are in blue font.]
Chapter 10 appears to be an interlude between the sixth and seventh trumpets, much like the interlude in chapter 7 between the sixth and seventh seals.
A. The Mighty Angel with the Little Book (10:1-7)
Verse 1: A mighty angel comes down from heaven. Who is this mighty angel? Is it the same mighty angel referred to in Rev. 5:2? Do you think this could be Jesus? Why or why not? Some seem to think this angel is Michael because of the description of him in Daniel 12:1 and also 12:6-7.
What do we know about this mighty angel? He was wrapped in a cloud. In the OT clouds are often the vehicle or means by which God appears. He had a rainbow over his head. God is described in similar terms in Ezekiel 1:26-28. His face was like the sun. There is a similar description of Jesus in Rev. 1:16. His legs were like pillars of fire (see Rev. 1:15). He had the voice of a Lion when it roars.
Verse 2: He had in his hand a scroll that was open. Does this suggest that it’s Jesus, because only Jesus can open the scroll? Is the little scroll the same as the 7-sealed scroll referred to in chapter 5? Evidently the little scroll symbolizes God’s revelation that John was about to set forth. It is the revelation that the remainder of the Book of Revelation, or at least part of it, contains. Eating is a universal idiom for receiving knowledge (cf. Jer. 15:16; Ezek. 3:1-3). According to Dr. Thomas Constable, a Dispensationalist,
The little scroll in his hand may be different from the scroll Jesus Christ unrolled (5:1; 6:1). John used a different and rare Greek word to describe it (biblaridion, not biblion). The tense of the Greek verb translated “was open” (perfect passive) indicates that someone had opened it and it was then open in his hand. It probably represents a new revelation from God (cf. Ezek. 2:9—3:3; Jer. 15:15-17) [Dr. Thomas Constable, Notes on Revelation: 2008 Edition, p. 96].
Adam’s notes on verse 2:
In this verse we see the angel standing with his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land. As we have seen in our previous studies**, the phrase “on the land” (also translated at times “on the earth”) is a common reference in Revelation to the land of Israel, and the phrase “on the sea” is a common reference to Gentile nations (See, for example, the post on Revelation 1, where we examined the phrase “tribes of the earth” in verse 7, which is often thought to be worldwide in scope. When this prophecy is compared, though, to its counterpart in Zechariah 12:10-14, it’s clear that every one of those tribes belonged to the land of Israel). One truth indicated by this picture is likely that God is sovereign over the affairs of both Israel and the nations of the world. An even greater significance will be seen when we come to the subject of the mystery of God in verse 7. On the significance of this picture, Steve Gregg quotes from David Chilton in his book “Revelation: Four Views (A Parallel Commentary),” on page 202. Chilton had the same understanding:
…in the Bible, and especially in the Book of Revelation, “Sea and Land” seem to represent the Gentile nations contrasted with the Land of Israel (2 Sam. 22:4-5; Ps. 65:7-8; Isa. 5:30; 17:12-13; 57:20; Jer. 6:23; Luke 21:25; Rev. 13:1, 11).
Regarding the “little scroll” that the angel held in his hand, there are a couple of different opinions among Preterists (p. 204). David S. Clark believes it is what is left of the same book that we saw in the fifth chapter (it now appears as opened because the seven seals have been opened). At this point, notes Clark, we are also in the events of the sixth trumpet, so “little remains of the contents of that book.” David Chilton more or less agrees, saying that “the book is thus, essentially, the Book of Revelation itself.” Jay Adams, however, sees it as a separate prophecy, “contained in chapters 13-19,” concerning the future fall of Rome (future to John, but not to us in the 21st century).
**In our study of Revelation so far, we have suggested that many of the references to “the earth” in the book of Revelation are not meant to be taken as worldwide in scope, but as dealing instead with the land of Israel/Palestine. In a 3-part study on this subject beginning with this post, I have outlined nearly 20 instances where this appears to be the case.
Verse 3: David Chilton sees the seven thunders uttering their voices as being parallel to “the Voice” in Psalm 29, “where some of its phenomenal effects are noted” (Steve Gregg, p. 204).
Verse 4: John heard the seven thunders sound, but then was forbidden to record in writing what he had heard them say. Sam Storms, a Historicist, speculates,
Perhaps the thunders are withheld because it has already been demonstrated that such plagues and judgments do not bring people to repentance. Therefore, final judgment will now come. There will be no further “delay” (10:6). One need not wait for the thunders to witness the end of history. John is not allowed to write down the seven peals of thunder because they will never occur (Sam Storms, A Strong Angel and the Seven Thunders: A Study in Revelation 10, November 7, 2006).
David S. Clark speculates that the details of what they said were too terrible to put into writing, that John’s readers were spared “the description of the carnage and massacre and madness…”, and that another reason was because their utterances “soon became a matter of history, and John did not need to write them in detail” (Steve Gregg, p. 206). David Chilton makes another possible application as a general principle: “God wanted the church to know that there are some things (many things, actually) that God has no intention of telling us beforehand.”
Verses 5-6: The fact that the angel took an oath and swore by God seems to confirm that he is not God (Constable, p. 97).
Adam’s notes on verses 6-7:
The oath taken by the angel was that there was to be “no more delay.” This calls to mind the instructions given to the martyrs in Rev. 6:9-11, whose souls were under the altar. They were crying out for the Lord to avenge their blood, and asking how long it would be until this took place. They were told to “rest a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been.” Now all delay was to end, and just as importantly at the trumpet call of the seventh angel “the mystery of God would be fulfilled, just as He announced to His servants the prophets.” The reference to “His servants the prophets” is commonly used in the Old Testament to refer to the prophets God sent to the nation of Israel (e.g. II Kings 9:7, Jeremiah 7:25, Zechariah 1:6, and especially Daniel 9:6).
The phrase “the mystery of God” should ring a bell for anyone familiar with the epistles written by Paul. He speaks of this mystery in Romans 16:25-26 (cf. Rom. 11:25), but he covers this topic most thoroughly in his epistles to the Ephesians (1:7-10, 2:11-3:11, 5:31-32, 6:18-20) and to the Colossians (1:24-27, 2:1-4, 4:3-4 [cf. 3:11]).
In his book to the Ephesians, Paul reminds the Gentile believers that they were formerly called “the uncircumcision” (2:11), they were “separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise” (2:12), and “far off” (2:13). Now they “have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (2:13) and “made one new man” with Jewish believers (2:15). They are “no longer strangers and aliens,” but are “fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (2:19), being “joined together…into a holy temple in the Lord” (2:21).
Paul told the Ephesians that by reading his description of the mystery made known to him by revelation (3:1-4), they could perceive his insight into “the mystery of Christ” which was not made known to previous generations as it had been revealed to the apostles and prophets in his day (3:4-5). Paul is then most explicit regarding what this mystery is in Ephesians 3:6, and this is most crucial to our understanding of Revelation 10:7:
This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
Therefore, David Chilton and Jay Adams are correct as they are quoted for the Preterist commentary on Revelation 10:7 in Steve Gregg’s book:
This ‘Mystery’ is a major aspect of the letters to the Ephesians and Colossians: the union of believing Jews and Gentiles in one church, without distinction (Chilton, as quoted in Steve Gregg, Revelation, p. 208).
The completion of the mystery of God (v. 7) refers to the fact that the “predominantly Jewish nature of the church was to be ended by the destruction of the temple, the distinctive feature in which it centered” (Adams). The mystery itself, of course, is that of which Paul frequently speaks, namely, as Adams writes, “that the Gentiles should come into the church on an equal footing with the Jews, not first having to become Jews themselves…” (Steve Gregg, ibid).
Sadly, I believe that each of the authors quoted for the Futurist commentary in Gregg’s book completely miss the meaning of Revelation 10:7. Hal Lindsey, for example (p. 209), identifies the mystery of God in this way:
…the secret of His allowing Satan to have his own way, and man too (that is to say, the wonder of evil prospering and of good being trodden underfoot).
Arno C. Gaebelin, another Futurist, expresses it this way:
How great has been that mystery! Evil had apparently triumphed; the heavens for so long have been silent. Satan had been permitted to be the god of this age deceiving the nations… And now the time has come when the mystery of God will be completed.
John Walvoord takes the mystery of God to mean “truth concerning God Himself which has not been fully revealed” (i.e. as of 1966, when Walvoord wrote this). In other words, the truth concerning God as revealed by the Bible would prove to be insufficient, and a future generation living some 200o years or more after Christ would uncover the missing pieces of truth. What a dangerous notion, leaving much room for some group or movement to come along and claim that they have discovered this mystery. It’s a perfect recipe for cults. H.A. Ironside, writing in 1920, also saw the revealing of this mystery as yet future:
Everything will then be made plain. The mystery of retribution—the mystery of predestination—the mystery of the great struggle between light and darkness and good and evil—all will be explained then.
Paul, however, already explained this mystery in the first century AD, as the truth that Gentiles and Jews are fellow and equal partakers of the promise in Christ through the gospel. We might do well to remember that several years after Jesus had ascended the Jewish believers were astounded when salvation began to come to the Gentiles (Acts 10:45, 11:18, 13:46, 14:27, 15:9-10). In 70 AD the centerpieces of Old Covenant Judaism, the temple and the once holy city of Jerusalem, were taken out of the way. The kingdom was taken from national Israel and given to the Church, the people whom Jesus said would produce its fruits (See the ‘Parable of the Tenants’ in Matthew 21:33-45; cf. Hebrews 8:13).
Thus we can see the significance in verse 2 of the angel standing with one foot on the sea and one foot on the land. If the sea is interpreted as a reference to the Gentiles, and the land as a reference to Israel (the Jews), then the picture we have is of a bridging of the gap between the two. This is precisely what we see in Paul’s teaching in Ephesians 2:11-22 that, in Christ, Jews and Gentiles are one. This teaching leads up to Paul’s statement in Eph. 3:6 explicitly identifying what the mystery of God is:
Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh…were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in His flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments and ordinances, that He might create in Himself one new man in place of two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And He came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through Him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God… (Eph. 2:11-11; cf. Acts 2:39, I Peter 2:9-10).
The picture of the angel bridging the gap between land and sea is a beautiful symbol of God’s bringing Jews and Gentiles together in Himself on an equal basis, having torn down the dividing wall by His work on the cross. The placing of this picture in the context of events taking place in 70 AD is not to say that this reality was only made true at that time. Rather this reality was made all the more apparent and universal when the physical temple, the central symbol of Old Covenant Judaism and Israel’s national pride, was visibly brought down forever in 70 AD in favor of “a holy temple in the Lord…a dwelling place for God by the Spirit” (Eph. 2:21-22).
Not only does Revelation 10 bear similarities to Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians, but it also has striking similarities to Daniel 12. In Daniel’s day we are told of Michael, ”the great prince who has charge of” Daniel’s people, Israel (verse 1). In Daniel 12:7, as in Rev. 10:5-6 we see an angel who “raised his right hand to heaven and swore by Him who lives forever.”
Having looked closely at Daniel 12:1 and 12;6-7, I lean toward this angel here in Revelation 10 being Michael, and not Jesus. The actions of the angel in Daniel 12 and the angel in Revelation 10 are very similar. Michael was assigned as the great prince in charge of Daniel’s people, Israel (Dan. 12:1). Daniel was told that when he would arise there would be a “time of trouble” for his people like never before (cf. Matt. 24:21, Jer. 30:7), but that everyone whose names were “written in the book” (believers in Christ; cf. Rev. 3:5, 20:12) would be delivered. This is precisely what happened during the Jewish-Roman War of 66-70 AD. As we wrote in our study of Rev. 7,
Just prior to the siege of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, the Jewish Christians in that city were warned by a prophetic oracle to flee from the city (echoing Jesus’ own warning in Luke 21:20ff). Historian Eusebius (c. 325) wrote: “The whole body, however, of the church at Jerusalem, having been commanded by a divine revelation, given to men of approved piety there before the war, removed from the city, and dwelt at a certain town beyond the Jordan, called Pella.”
In Daniel 12:7, as in Rev. 10:5-6 we see an angel who “raised his right hand to heaven and swore by Him who lives forever.” The exact same language is used in both passages. When the angel raised his hand to swear by God the first time, he swore that the things being told to Daniel would take place over a 3.5 year time period (“a time, times, and half a time”; verse 7). It would result in the “shattering of the power of the holy people.” Again, this is precisely what happened in 66-70 AD. From the time that Nero declared war on the land of Israel in late winter 67 AD until the temple was destroyed in August 70 AD, exactly 3.5 years transpired. No event in Israel’s history epitomizes the shattering of their power like what occurred in 70 AD. These parallel images in Revelation 10 and Daniel 12 are given in order to indicate that the same events are being spoken of. In Daniel’s case, he was told to “seal the book, until the time of the end” (Dan. 12:4, 9), for his vision referred “to many days from now” (8:26). In John’s day, however, he was told, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near” (Rev. 22:10). These things did occur shortly after John committed them to writing, resulting in the full, universal, and manifest establishment of the New Covenant temple of God apart from Old Covenant temple-based Judaism.
B. John Eats the Little Book (10:8-11)
Verse 9: John was told to eat the scroll, and it would be sweet like honey in his mouth but bitter in his stomach. On this, Sam Storms remarks,
The instructions given to John by the angel are patterned after Ezekiel’s experience where he, too, is commanded to eat the scroll (Ezek. 2-3; see also the experience of Jeremiah in 15:16 of his prophecy). The eating of the scroll symbolizes the spiritual “assimilation” of the message it contains and the prophet’s personal identification with and submission to its truth (“Son of man, take into your heart all My words which I shall speak to you and listen closely,” Ezek. 3:10).
Adam’s notes on verses 9-10:
Sam Storms is correct that John’s experience when eating the scroll parallels Ezekiel’s experience. Steve Gregg (p. 210) notes that Ezekiel’s nearly identical experience took place just before Jerusalem was destroyed during his day, and it is fitting that John experienced the same before Jerusalem’s second destruction in 70 AD:
The action of eating the little book (v. 10), and reference to how it affected the mouth and stomach, is an imitation of the identical actions of Ezekiel the prophet (see Ezek. 3:1-3, 14). Ezekiel’s prophecy was about the destruction of Jerusalem at the hands of the Babylonians in 586 B.C. John’s similar action also is connected with his prophesying the destruction of Jerusalem, this time by the Romans in A.D. 70.
David S. Clark wrote that the scroll’s sweetness and bitterness reflected the fact that some of the things being revealed to the first-century Church through John would make God’s people glad, but others would sadden them:
It was a matter of gladness that God heard their prayers and answered their cries, vindicated their cause, and destroyed the persecutors. But it was sad that men did not turn from their sins, sad that such judgments must fall.
Verse 11: John is told, “You must again prophesy about many peoples and nations and languages and kings.” This same type of list has already been seen in Rev. 5:9 and 7:9, and will also be seen in Rev. 11:9, 13:7, 14:6, and 17:15; a total of seven times in Revelation.
Steve Gregg notes that some Preterists (e.g. Moses Stuart, David S. Clark, and Jay Adams) view the second half of the book of Revelation to be a prophecy of Rome’s downfall in 476 AD, and so they take this verse to be an indication that the next half of Revelation does not concern Israel. Other Preterists (e.g. J. Stewart Russell, David Chilton, Milton S. Terry, and Philip Carrington) “consider the whole of Revelation to be concerned with the downfall of the Jewish state” and thus “believe that the book simply adds [here] an international dimension to the continuing predictions of God’s dealings with Israel, particularly stressing the impact of the fall of Jerusalem upon the global gospel mission.” Steve Gregg then quotes David Chilton, who says (pp. 212, 214),
the Angel-Prophet, who proclaims His message while straddling the inhabited earth, commissions St. John to prophesy again concerning many peoples and nations and tongues and kings. St. John’s prophecy regarding the destruction of Israel and the establishing of the New Covenant will encompass the nations of the world.
Our study of Revelation 11 (Part 1) can be found here.
All of our Revelation chapter-by-chapter studies, and any other posts related to the book of Revelation, can be found here.