The Angel of the covenant presents a little open book, which is followed with seven thunders. (1-4) At the end of the following prophecies, time should be no more. (5-7) A voice directs the apostle to eat the book; (8-10) and tells him he must prophesy further. (11)
Verses 1-7 The apostle saw another representation. The person communicating this discovery probably was our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, or it was to show his glory. He veils his glory, which is too great for mortal eyes to behold; and throws a veil upon his dispensations. A rainbow was upon his head; our Lord is always mindful of his covenant. His awful voice was echoed by seven thunders; solemn and terrible ways of discovering the mind of God. We know not the subjects of the seven thunders, nor the reasons for suppressing them. There are great events in history, perhaps relating to the Christian church, which are not noticed in open prophecy. The final salvation of the righteous, and the final success of true religion on earth, are engaged for by the unfailing word of the Lord. Though the time may not be yet, it cannot be far distant. Very soon, as to us, time will be no more; but if we are believers, a happy eternity will follow: we shall from heaven behold and rejoice in the triumphs of Christ, and his cause on earth.
Verses 8-11 Most men feel pleasure in looking into future events, and all good men like to receive a word from God. But when this book of prophecy was thoroughly digested by the apostle, the contents would be bitter; there were things so awful and terrible, such grievous persecutions of the people of God, such desolations in the earth, that the foresight and foreknowledge of them would be painful to his mind. Let us seek to be taught by Christ, and to obey his orders; daily meditating on his word, that it may nourish our souls; and then declaring it according to our several stations. The sweetness of such contemplations will often be mingled with bitterness, while we compare the Scriptures with the state of the world and the church, or even with that of our own hearts.
Revelation 10:1-11 . VISION OF THE LITTLE BOOK.
As an episode was introduced between the sixth and seventh seals, so there is one here (Revelation 10:1-11:14') after the sixth and introductory to the seventh trumpet ( Revelation 11:15 , which forms the grand consummation). The Church and her fortunes are the subject of this episode: as the judgments on the unbelieving inhabiters of the earth ( Revelation 8:13 ) were the exclusive subject of the fifth and sixth woe-trumpets. Revelation 6:11 is plainly referred to in Revelation 10:6 below; in Revelation 6:11 the martyrs crying to be avenged were told they must "rest yet for a little season" or time: in Revelation 10:6 here they are assured, "There shall be no longer (any interval of) time"; their prayer shall have no longer to wait, but ( Revelation 10:7 ) at the trumpet sounding of the seventh angel shall be consummated, and the mystery of God (His mighty plan heretofore hidden, but then to be revealed) shall be finished. The little open book ( Revelation 10:2 Revelation 10:9 Revelation 10:10 ) is given to John by the angel, with a charge ( Revelation 10:11 ) that he must prophesy again concerning (so the Greek) peoples, nations, tongues, and kings: which prophecy (as appears from Revelation 11:15-19 ) affects those peoples, nations, tongues, and kings only in relation to ISRAEL AND THE CHURCH, who form the main object of the prophecy.
1. another mighty angel--as distinguished from the mighty angel who asked as to the former and more comprehensive book ( Revelation 5:2 ), "Who is worthy to open the book?"
clothed with a cloud--the emblem of God coming in judgment.
a--A; B, C. and Aleph read "the"; referring to ( Revelation 4:3 ) the rainbow already mentioned.
rainbow upon his head--the emblem of covenant mercy to God's people, amidst judgments on God's foes. Resumed from Revelation 4:3
face as . . . the sun--( Revelation 1:16 , 18:1 ).
feet as pillars of fire--( Revelation 1:15 , Ezekiel 1:7 ). The angel, as representative of Christ, reflects His glory and bears the insignia attributed in Revelation 1:15 Revelation 1:16 , 4:3 , to Christ Himself. The pillar of fire by night led Israel through the wilderness, and was the symbol of God's presence.
2. he had--Greek, "Having."
in his hand--in his left hand: as in Revelation 10:5
a little book--a roll little in comparison with the "book" ( Revelation 5:1 ) which contained the whole vast scheme of God's purposes, not to be fully read till the final consummation. This other, a less book, contained only a portion which John was now to make his own ( Revelation 10:9 Revelation 10:11 ), and then to use in prophesying to others. The New Testament begins with the word "book" (Greek, "biblus"), of which "the little book" (Greek, "biblaridion") is the diminutive, "the little bible," the Bible in miniature.
upon the sea . . . earth--Though the beast with seven heads is about to arise out of the sea ( Revelation 13:1 ), and the beast with two horns like a lamb ( Revelation 13:11 ) out of the earth, yet it is but for a time, and that time shall no longer be ( Revelation 10:6 Revelation 10:7 ) when once the seventh trumpet is about to sound; the angel with his right foot on the sea, and his left on the earth, claims both as God's, and as about soon to be cleared of the usurper and his followers.
3. as . . . lion--Christ, whom the angel represents, is often so symbolized ( Revelation 5:5 , "the Lion of the tribe of Juda").
seven thunders--Greek, "the seven thunders." They form part of the Apocalyptic symbolism; and so are marked by the article as well known. Thus thunderings marked the opening of the seventh seal ( Revelation 8:1 Revelation 8:5 ); so also at the seventh vial ( Revelation 16:17 Revelation 16:18 ). WORDSWORTH calls this the prophetic use of the article; "the thunders, of which more hereafter." Their full meaning shall be only known at the grand consummation marked by the seventh seal, the seventh trumpet ( Revelation 11:19 ), and the seventh vial.
uttered their--Greek, "spake their own voices"; that is, voices peculiarly their own, and not now revealed to men.
4. when--Aleph reads, "Whatsoever things." But most manuscripts support English Version.
uttered their voices--A, B, C, and Aleph omit "their voices." Then translate, "had spoken."
unto me--omitted by A, B, C, Aleph, and Syriac.
Seal up--the opposite command to Revelation 22:20 . Even though at the time of the end the things sealed in Daniel's time were to be revealed, yet not so the voices of these thunders. Though heard by John, they were not to be imparted by him to others in this book of Revelation; so terrible are they that God in mercy withholds them, since "sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof." The godly are thus kept from morbid ponderings over the evil to come; and the ungodly are not driven by despair into utter recklessness of life. ALFORD adds another aim in concealing them, namely, "godly fear, seeing that the arrows of God's quiver are not exhausted." Besides the terrors foretold, there are others unutterable and more horrifying lying in the background.
5. lifted up his hand--So A and Vulgate read. But B, C, Aleph, Syriac, and Coptic, ". . . his right hand." It was customary to lift up the hand towards heaven, appealing to the God of truth, in taking a solemn oath. There is in this part of the vision an allusion to Daniel 12:1-13 . Compare Revelation 10:4 , with Daniel 12:4 Daniel 12:9 ; and Revelation 10:5 Revelation 10:6 , end, with Daniel 12:7 . But there the angel clothed in linen, and standing upon the waters, sware "a time, times, and a half" were to interpose before the consummation; here, on the contrary, the angel standing with his left foot on the earth, and his right upon the sea, swears there shall be time no longer. There he lifted up both hands to heaven; here he has the little book now open (whereas in Daniel the book is sealed) in his left hand ( Revelation 10:2 ), and he lifts up only his right hand to heaven.
6. liveth for ever and ever--Greek, "liveth unto the ages of the ages" (compare Daniel 12:7 ).
created heaven . . . earth . . . sea, &c.--This detailed designation of God as the Creator, is appropriate to the subject of the angel's oath, namely, the consummating of the mystery of God ( Revelation 10:7 ), which can surely be brought to pass by the same Almighty power that created all things, and by none else.
that there should be time no longer--Greek, "that time (that is, an interval of time) no longer shall be." The martyrs shall have no longer a time to wait for the accomplishment of their prayers for the purgation of the earth by the judgments which shall remove their and God's foes from it ( Revelation 6:11 ). The appointed season or time of delay is at an end (the same Greek is here as in Revelation 6:11 , chronus). Not as English Version implies, Time shall end and eternity begin.
7. But--connected with Revelation 10:6 . "There shall be no longer time (that is, delay), but in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he is about to (so the Greek) sound his trumpet (so the Greek), then (literally, 'also'; which conjunction often introduces the consequent member of a sentence) the mystery of God is finished," literally, "has been finished"; the prophet regarding the future as certain as if it were past. A, C, Aleph, and Coptic read the past tense (Greek, "etelesthee"). B reads, as English Version, the future tense (Greek, "telesthee"). "should be finished" (compare Revelation 11:15-18 ). Sweet consolation to the waiting saints! The seventh trumpet shall be sounded without further delay.
the mystery of God--the theme of the "little book," and so of the remainder of the Apocalypse. What a grand contrast to the "mystery of iniquity Babylon!" The mystery of God's scheme of redemption, once hidden in God's secret counsel and dimly shadowed forth in types and prophecies, but now more and more clearly revealed according as the Gospel kingdom develops itself, up to its fullest consummation at the end. Then finally His servants shall praise Him most fully, for the glorious consummation of the mystery in having taken to Himself and His saints the kingdom so long usurped by Satan and the ungodly. Thus this verse is an anticipation of Revelation 11:15-18 .
declared to--Greek, "declared the glad tidings to." "The mystery of God" is the Gospel glad tidings. The office of the prophets is to receive the glad tidings from God, in order to declare them to others. The final consummation is the great theme of the Gospel announced to, and by, the prophets (compare Galatians 3:8 ).
8. spake . . . and said--So Syriac and Coptic read. But A, B, C, "(I heard) again speaking with me, and saying" (Greek, "lalousan . . . legousan").
little book--So Aleph and B read. But A and C, "the book."
9. I went--Greek, "I went away." John here leaves heaven, his standing-point of observation heretofore, to be near the angel standing on the earth and sea.
Give--A, B, C, and Vulgate read the infinitive, "Telling him to give."
eat it up--appropriate its contents so entirely as to be assimilated with (as food), and become part of thyself, so as to impart them the more vividly to others. His finding the roll sweet to the taste at first, is because it was the Lord's will he was doing, and because, divesting himself of carnal feeling, he regarded God's will as always agreeable, however bitter might be the message of judgment to be announced. Compare Psalms 40:8 , Margin, as to Christ's inner complete appropriation of God's word.
thy belly bitter--parallel to Ezekiel 2:10 , "There was written therein lamentations, and mourning, and woe."
as honey--( Psalms 19:10 , 119:103 ). Honey, sweet to the mouth, sometimes turns into bile in the stomach. The thought that God would be glorified ( Revelation 11:3-6 Revelation 11:11-18 ) gave him the sweetest pleasure. Yet, afterwards the belly, or carnal natural feeling, was embittered with grief at the prophecy of the coming bitter persecutions of the Church ( Revelation 11:7-10 ); compare John 16:1 John 16:2 . The revelation of the secrets of futurity is sweet to one at first, but bitter and distasteful to our natural man, when we learn the cross which is to be borne before the crown shall be won. John was grieved at the coming apostasy and the sufferings of the Church at the hands of Antichrist.
10. the little book--So A and C, but B, Aleph, and Vulgate, "the book."
was bitter--Greek, "was embittered."
11. he said--A, B, and Vulgate read, "they say unto me"; an indefinite expression for "it was said unto me."
Thou must--The obligation lies upon thee, as the servant of God, to prophesy at His command.
again--as thou didst already in the previous part of this book of Revelation.
before, &c.--rather as Greek (epilaois), "concerning many peoples," &c., namely, in their relation to the Church. The eating of the book, as in Ezekiel's case, marks John's inauguration to his prophetical office--here to a fresh stage in it, namely, the revealing of the things which befall the holy city and the Church of God--the subject of the rest of the book.