The Little Book and the Unutterable Thunders (Revelation 10)
Between the opening of the sixth and seventh seals there was a pause to reveal four significant visions which would give assurances to the oppressed saints. In the first of these two visions the servants of God were sealed before the winds of God’s retribution were let loose upon the earth. In the second vision we saw a multitude of the victorious saints who had faithfully endured the tribulation and were standing before the throne, praising god and rejoicing in their victory. By these two visions, the Christians still living are assured that they will not be forgotten and will join their victorious brothers and sisters around the throne if they remain faithful to the end.
After this first pause we see the opening of the seventh seal which has been going on now since the first trumpet announcement beginning in chapter 8. The first four trumpets announced God’s use of various natural disasters to punish the Roman Empire in an effort to bring them to repentance. Horrific natural disasters often remind people of just how helpless they really are and sometimes causes them to seek answers in places they may not have formerly looked. It is a pretty humbling experience when one beholds the death of countless thousands of people and the destruction wrought by these disasters and wonders why it has to be. And this humble attitude of heart is precisely the one anyone should have when approaching God on His throne. These natural disasters were God’s way of telling His enemies that He is the one in charge and He is the one they should be seeking.
Then the fifth and sixth trumpets sounded and the enemies of righteousness faced woes that were a lot more direct and specific. Disease from their decadent lifestyle and then direct attacks from their worldly enemies. In the face of earthquakes, famine, weather, plagues and incessant attacks from one’s enemies, it should be easy to conclude that something is amiss. History records that some of the Romans did indeed seek answers to their problems. But they sought them in the wrong places. They thought their pagan gods were angry with them for tolerating the Christians and set out to destroy them all the more. They failed to recognize that no matter what they did, the Christians were still there. No matter how hard they tried to stamp Christianity out, it persevered. They tried to appease their false lifeless gods of wood and stone by persecuting and trying to destroy the children of the one true and living God. The God they should have been seeking all along.
Now we are approaching the seventh and final announcement which is God’s final and complete judgment against the enemies of the Christians. When this judgment has been concluded, it will be finished and those who live in the Roman Empire and are the enemies of righteousness will have no more opportunity to repent. we will see in this interlude between the 6th and 7th announcement that there comes a time when God no longer warns the unrighteous. He has said all he is going to say, has given all the warnings He’s going to give and has given them up to their vile lifestyles and going to let them suffer the consequences of their choices. We see this attitude in God on a personal level directed at individuals in Romans 1:18-32 but now it is seen on a much larger scale as the entire Roman Empire is given over to suffer the consequences of their unrighteousness.
In this interlude between the sixth and seventh trumpets, we will see four main things in John’s vision.
- The unutterable thunders, Revelation 10:1-7
- The little book, Revelation 10:8-11
- The measuring of the Temple, Revelation 11:1-2
- The two witnesses, Revelation 11:3-13
“And I saw another strong angel coming down out of heaven, arrayed with a cloud; and the rainbow was upon his head, and his face was as the sun, and his feet as pillars of fire”
This word cloud or clouds occurs in the New Testament twenty seven times in the KJV. In all but a few usages, it is used in some relation to deity or of a divine appearance, often in judgment. Being arrayed in a cloud means this messenger is coming on a divine mission relating to judgment. This angel shares some of the attributes given to Jesus with his face as the sun and feet as pillars of fire. This angel being thus described is indicative of strength and the importance of his mission. Clouds and fire are symbols of judgment and the sun is the symbol of light which represents righteousness. This angel is of a similar rank as the angel seen earlier in Revelation 5:2 where we read of the strong angel asking who was worthy to open the book and loose the seven seals. Inspiration does not tell us whether this is the same angel seen earlier or by what name he is identified. All we know is that he is strong enough to make the declaration that is forthcoming.
The rainbow is symbolic of God’s everlasting covenant taken from the rainbow seen in the clouds after the great flood. The bearer of this message from heaven is wearing God’s covenant with mankind upon his head, meaning that it is at the head or forefront of all messengers from the throne. What is getting ready to come when the seventh trumpet sounds is terrible indeed but the righteous see that God’s covenant is there in a prominent place where it can be seen by all.
“and he had in his hand a little book open: and he set his right foot upon the sea, and his left upon the earth”
In this part of the vision, the strong angel was holding a “little book” in his hand. The Greek word for these two words is “biblaridion“, a diminutive of “biblion“. This word could be translated as the single word “booklet” and be perfectly accurate. Books have been established in this series of visions as the figurative means which God used to express Himself. Certainly we know that these are not literal books with binding, paper and ink. In the first century this would likely have been a scroll. This little book or scroll is figurative for a message and with the book being open, it is obviously a message which was intended to be revealed to John. This is a continuation of the vision where Jesus Christ unsealed the scroll containing the ultimate fate of the enemies of Christianity. This little book is a part of the message already unsealed by the Son of God.
This angel with his right foot upon the sea and his left foot upon the earth simply means the whole earth. The message contained within the little book is therefore directed at the inhabitants of the all the earth.
“and he cried with a great voice, as a lion roareth: and when he cried, the seven thunders uttered their voices.”
Lions represents great strength, boldness and bravery. The voice of this angel was powerful, bold and was accompanied by the voices of the seven thunders. The number seven represents the totality or completeness associated with God’s authority on the earth. Thunder signifies authority, power and volume and often is associated with a message from the divine. This voice thundering with the voice of the angel can only mean a direct response from the throne of God. All the messages to man originate from the throne but this one is given special notice in order to signify the authority and importance of it.
“And when the seven thunders uttered (their voices), I was about to write: and I heard a voice from heaven saying, Seal up the things which the seven thunders uttered, and write them not.”
John heard what the voices of thunder revealed but was commanded to refrain from recording this message. Scripture teaches that there comes a time when sinners are given over to suffer the consequences for their actions. Hymaneaeus and Alexander were disfellowshipped by Paul in order that they repent. Paul instructed the Christians in Corinth to do the same with the man who was in sexual sin with his father’s wife. The objective in both cases was so that they would repent. They were given over to their sin in order to suffer the full consequences of it in their lives. There are no more warnings, there are no more exhortations. The sinners were withdrawn from and left to face the ravages of sin alone.
I remember as a young spirited boy growing up the times when my misbehavior pushed my father over the limit. The time was not appropriate for punishment but I could tell from his stony silence that his mind was made up and at his earliest convenience, I was going to receive correction. The warnings which were few to begin with utterly stopped and when I looked at him I was met with a ice cold stony silent glare that boded ill for me. It was at these times when contemplating my forthcoming immediate fate that I considered my actions and my predicament. The thunder of my father’s anger was apparent in his silence. There is something about a father’s grim irresolute silence that is quite disturbing to a child. As long as the child is being corrected, he feels somewhat secure in the knowledge that Dad is still working with him. But when that stops and nothing but silence is forthcoming then an attentive child knows he has gone too far. It was during these times that I tried the hardest to be on my best behavior. I knew that my only remaining chance to avoid disaster was immediate and total surrender and impeccable obedience.
The Roman Empire had gone too far. God sent earthquakes, famines, diseases, violent weather and vicious enemies in an effort to get them to repent from their unrighteousness. They rebelled against God’s authority, insisted on worshipping their own gods and persecuted His children until He had enough. Everything God had done had not produced any change in their behavior and He was done talking to them about it. There was plenty more He could say, but like an earthly father who has put up with all he’s going to, it will be communicated in the actions soon to come. What a horrible thought it should be to an erring Christian to think that God had given up on him. It is no different for an unbeliever. When God gives up on them, talking is over, the last opportunity to repent is at hand and they better avail themselves of it. The wrath of our God is far worse and much longer lasting the wrath of an earthly father. The judgment is final and the punishment is eternal.
John knew what the thunders revealed but was commanded to keep it to himself. The utterances of the thunders were carried unwritten to John’s grave. We will never know this side of heaven exactly what those thunders said, but we can be assured it was serious indeed. The implication of receiving no more warnings from God is serious enough in and of itself to speak volumes to anyone left who might listen. Sometimes it’s the things not said that speak the loudest.
“And the angel that I saw standing upon the sea and upon the earth lifted up his right hand to heaven,”
It is one’s right hand that mankind today raises to swear oaths such as to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth in a court of law.
“and sware by him that liveth for ever and ever, who created the heaven and the things that are therein, and the earth and the things that are therein, and the sea and the things that are therein, that there shall be delay no longer”
The angel seen standing on the earth with his right hand lifted in a solemn display swears an oath by Jesus Christ, the one who lives for ever and ever (Hebrews 7:24-25), who created the heaven and the things that are therein, and the earth and the things that are therein, and the sea and the things that are therein (Ephesians 3:9, Colossians 1:16). The swearing of oaths was a big thing in old testament times. The swearing of an oath was the invoking of a curse upon one’s self if one has not spoken the truth (Matthew 26:74), or if one fails to keep a promise (1 Samuel 19:6; 20:17; 2 Samuel 15:21; 19:23). It played a very important part, not only in lawsuits (Exodus 22:11; Leviticus 6:3,5) and state affairs, but also in the dealings of everyday life (Genesis 24:37; 50:5; Judges 21:5; 1 Kings 18:10; Ezra 10:5). In new testament times, the swearing of oaths by man is prohibited by divine commandment, “Again, ye have heard that it was said to them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths: but I say unto you, swear not at all; neither by the heaven, for it is the throne of God nor by the earth, for it is the footstool of his feet; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, for thou canst not make one hair white or black” (Matthew 5:33-36). A literal angel did not stand on the earth with one foot in the seas and one foot on land and lift his right hand and swear and oath on the name of Jesus Christ. The image here is to illustrate the solemn seriousness of the next phrase.
“that there shall be delay no longer”
Time was up. Judgment which had been partial and scattered over the Roman Empire at different periods of time was now going to be total. The Roman Empire was reduced to a mere shadow of what she once was and was about to be utterly destroyed and would never ever again rise to power. Today there are no more Caesars or crested Roman soldiers. There are no more temples built to worship the Roman Emperors and the other various pagan gods so prevalent in their culture. The shining magnificent cities are lay in ruins, the powerful legions of soldiers only march in the pages of history now. This is a grim testament to the utter and total finality of God’s judgment. The Roman Empire did fall and they had no one to blame but themselves.
“but in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, then is finished the mystery of God, according to the good tidings which he declared to his servants the prophets.”
The seventh angel with the trumpet has not yet sounded but when he does, the mystery of God will be finished. The Romans had no idea why their empire was crumbling about them. The workings of God in opposition to their unrighteousness was a complete mystery to them because they refused to repent and turn to righteousness. The Christians knew what was going on. They had the good news of the gospel given to them. The mystery of God was the plan of redemption and the promise of eternal life for the faithful (Colossians 1:26-27), once delivered to his apostles and servants (Jude 3), now is almost finished and will be completed when the seventh angel sounds. This reference to the good tidings being completed is linked to the Book sealed with the seven perfect seals, the book that contained the coming of righteousness, followed by the influence of Satan and the steps progressing up to the rise of the great persecution and now with the little book at the end, we see the final chapter about to close on this greatest earthly enemy the Christians had ever known.
The good tidings in the view of the oppressed Christians is of course the victory they will achieve from their perseverance in Christ. This was good tidings indeed for them, especially in view of what is about to come chapter 11. The oppressed Christians are going to need all the reassurance they can get because the persecution was yet to get so bad that the enemies of righteousness thought they had successfully stamped out Christianity forever. The battle is almost over but the worst was yet to come.
“And the voice which I heard from heaven, (I heard it) again speaking with me, and saying, Go, take the book which is open in the hand of the angel that standeth upon the sea and upon the earth.”
The final chapter in the mystery of the good tidings is laying open in the hands of the angel. John is instructed to go take that book.
“And I went unto the angel, saying unto him that he should give me the little book. And he saith unto me, Take it, and eat it up; and it shall make thy belly bitter, but in thy mouth it shall be sweet as honey.”
This is the second time John was instructed to take the book. It was not handed to him even after he asked for it. The meaning here is that God’s will is never forced on anyone. We must reach out and take it of our own free choice through a conscious act on our part.
The imagery of eating the book is taken directly from Ezekiel’s vision where he was similarly instructed to take the open roll of a book and eat it (Ezekiel 2:8-3:3). John was to take the message contained within this book and and ingest it into his being. He was to take this message into his bowels and make it a part of his life. This message of the hope of the victorious will be sweet as honey in his mouth but the message of the fate of the enemies of righteousness will be bitter and hard to deal with. The Psalmist wrote, “Horror hath taken hold upon me because of the wicked that forsake thy law” (Psalms 119:53). The good tidings of this final message for the righteous was honey in his mouth but the horrors it contained for the unrighteous was bitter and would make him sick. The application for us today is that while the good news of the gospel message is wondrous for us, it contains a very different message for the unrighteous. The horrors that will be the eternal fate of the enemies of the cross should make us sick to our souls. God was willing to sacrifice the life of His only Son in order to give people an opportunity to escape this horrible fate. What should we today be willing to sacrifice in order to help fulfill this great purpose?
“And I took the little book out of the angel’s hand, and ate it up; and it was in my mouth sweet as honey: and when I had eaten it, my belly was made bitter.”
John took the book and did as instructed which resulted in the bittersweet taste promised him. The reception and comprehension of God’s word is indeed sweet to the ears of the saints but fraught with bitterness of spirit in its condemnation of sinners and the declaration of the consequences awaiting the disobedient.
“And they say unto me, Thou must prophesy again over many peoples and nations and tongues and kings.”
While the fate of the enemies of Christianity is impending, John’s job is not yet complete. He is going to prophecy much more and over many nations and people of the earth. Being only half way through the Revelation it is easy to see what is being said here. Following the seventh trumpet announcement, John immediately starts over with the radiant woman which was the nation of Israel bringing forth the Messiah. The whole saga we are now nearing the conclusion of, repeats itself, but with different visions and a lot more detail. In Homer Hailey’s commentary, it is stated that the rest of the Revelation from chapters 11 thru 20 is the message within the little book. I see no reason why this cannot be the case.
Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven, robed in a cloud, with God’s covenant with man over his head like a rainbow. His face was bright and shining like the sun, and his feet carried the judgment of God like pillars of fire. He carried a message in a small open book in his hand for me to see. He set his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land and stood over the whole earth. Then he shouted with a loud voice like the roaring of a lion; and when he had finished, the seven thunders gave voice and uttered their message in distinct words. And when the seven thunders had spoken, I was going to write down what they said, but then I heard a voice from heaven saying, “do not reveal what the seven thunders have said! Do not write it down!”
Then the mighty angel whom I had seen stationed on sea and land raised his right hand to the sky and swore in the name of Him Who lives forever and ever, Who created the heavens and all they contain, and the earth and all that it contains, and the sea and all that it contains. He vowed that no more time would pass and there would be no more delay. But when the days come when the trumpet call of the seventh angel is about to be sounded, God’s secret design and hidden purpose as He had announced in the gospel to His servants the prophets, shall be completed and accomplished.
Then the voice that I heard from heaven spoke to me again, saying, Go and take the little book containing the last message which is open in the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land. So I went up to the angel and asked him to give me the little book. And he said to me, Take it and consume its message into your very being. It will be as sweet as honey in your mouth but in your bowels it will be bitter. So I took the message in the little book from the angel’s hand and consumed it and made it part of my life and its message was as sweet as honey in my mouth, but deep down inside it sickened me to my soul.
Then it was said to me, You are to make a fresh prophecy concerning these many peoples and races and nations and languages and kings.