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Beginning with chapter 10 and extending through 11:14 there is another parenthetical section or interlude between judgments. Again, this does not chronologically advance the narrative of Tribulation events, but is descriptive, introductory and explanatory. It presents other facts and explanations that contribute to the total prophetic scene of the Tribulation period.
“And I saw another strong angel …” (vs. 1). While the key note of the chapter is “the little book,” the first thing John sees is the appearance of another strong angel. This is important because the appearance and character of the angel gives validity and significance to the little book and its message. Some see this angel as the Lord Himself because of the description given of the angel. He descends with a cloud (cf. Ps. 104:3; Rev. 1:7), his face is like the sun (cf. 1:16), and his feet are as pillars of fire (cf. 1:15). Others try to connect him with the sixth angel, but it seems apparent that he is neither. “Another” is the Greek word allos and means “another of the same kind.” He is an angelic being of the same kind, but different (another) from the sixth angel. He is very likely the same angel as in 5:2 and this angel is clearly not the Lord. Furthermore, as Ryrie points out:
Others, however, point out that an angel might have these characteristics as well. He is called a “mighty” angel (the same word as in 5:2). Similar characteristics are ascribed to a man (clearly an angelic being) in Daniel 10:5ff. Furthermore, the archangel Michael’s name means “who is like God,” which would make these characteristics not unexpected. Also, there might be some problem in a descent of Christ at this point in the book (v. 1). There would be no problem if this were an angel. If this is an angel it is quite possible that he is the same one that appeared in 8:3, the “another” in 10:1 merely distinguishing him from the seven trumpet angels as it does in 8:3.133
“Coming down from heaven” simply emphasizes his source and his authority. In no other Scripture is Christ viewed as coming down to earth before the end of the Tribulation. This again suggests this is not Christ, but a mighty angel from God’s presence.
“Clothed with a cloud.” The angels are ministering spirits sent out to minister or carry out God’s purposes as with these judgments. In this, He makes or clothes them as He desires for the task at hand (cf. Heb. 1:7, 14). Those who see this angel as the Lord, see the cloud as a symbol of the Lord’s presence,134 but for reasons mentioned above, this is unlikely. Rather, “clothed with a cloud” is a symbol of divine intervention and judgment (cf. Dan. 7:13; 1 Thess. 4:17; Rev. 1:7; Exodus 24:15-18).
“And the rainbow was upon his head.” The rainbow appears as a crown or perhaps a kind of halo. This is the Greek, iris, “a rainbow, (colored) halo or radiance.”135 Since a rainbow is a sign of God’s faithfulness to His word in Scripture, the colored radiance or rainbow teaches that his appearance and the messages of this chapter are a result of God’s faithfulness to His covenants and mercy. God was here in the process of fulfilling Old and New Testament promises.
“And his face was like the sun” stresses this glorious angel was invested with divine glory and holiness to show us he was acting in response to God’s holiness (cf. Exodus 34:29).
“And his feet like pillars of fire” emphasizes his stance as firm, stable, immovable. “Fire” points to judgment and shows that God is immovable in the outpouring of these judgments.
“And he had in his hand a little book which was open.” In contrast to the seven-sealed book in Christ’s hand (Rev. 5), this is a little book and it is open. “Open” is in the perfect passive to show the book had already been opened. It was an open book which may indicate that it contained Old and New Testament prophecies of the coming events, though the exact contents of this little book are not revealed in this chapter. The point is this book had been opened prior to this chapter, unlike the seven-sealed book that had its contents revealed gradually, seal by seal in the progression of the book of Revelation.
“And he placed his right foot on the sea and his left on the land. Evidently for emphasis, this is mentioned three time in this chapter (10:2, 5, 8) and presents a picture of total conquest of land and sea. It relates this angel and the message of the little book to God’s purpose and promise to take possession of the entire world as it will be carried out in the final events of this momentous period of world events.
“And he cried out with a loud voice as when a lion roars” (vs. 3a). The lion, known as the king of the beasts, often roars when he has made a kill and takes possession of his prey. This stresses strength, kingship, possession, and victory on behalf of the Lord Jesus, the King of kings.
“And when he had cried out, the seven peals of thunder uttered their voices.” This occurs in answer to the appearance and cry of the angel. As lightening appears and flashes across the sky, and thunder follows, so now the seven peals of thunder are heard following the appearance of the mighty angel. The thunder answers the lion-like voice of the angel. Note that the thunder and the voice of the angel are not the same.
Thunder is a symbol of judgment but also of revelation. It reminds us God has revealed Himself in history to man, first in creation and then in various ways through special revelation, i.e., through the holy Scriptures and through the Son. Thunder is portrayed as the voice of the Lord seven times in Psalm 29:3-9. The idea is that thunderstorms are a reminder to man that he should ascribe glory and strength to God and worship God as the Creator King of this world. In Revelation 10, the thunder is heard in a most electrifying message that John was both able to hear and understand.
“Seal up … and do not write them” (vs. 4). The message was so electrifying and astounding that John, as was his custom with these visions, was about to write down what he heard, but a voice out of heaven, perhaps the Lord Himself, forbids this action. Evidently the message was so awesome that man could not handle it. It is sealed and is never revealed in this book. The Lord will evidently explain and reveal this Himself when we are with Him. From the nature of the passage, or context, this apparently deals with God’s judgments and purposes for these things, but the details are sealed.
“And the angel … lifted up his right hand to heaven and swore by Him …” (vs. 5-6). With his feet firmly planted on the sea and the land, the mighty angel takes the position of oath taking—the raised right hand—in order to affirm the plan and purposes of God to take possession of the earth without further delay. The feet firmly planted adds a determined and emphatic note to this affirmation of what God is going to do.
The basis of the oath is the person and work of God as the eternal, self-existent God who created all things, i.e., “by Him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven …” It is significant for us who are living in these last days before the Tribulation that the key philosophical issue of our time revolves around these two issues—the existence of God and creation versus secularism and evolution. Modern man derides both. Instead of being the creation of a personal God who created mankind for His own glory and purposes, man is the impersonal result of time and chance.
“That there shall be delay no longer” is literally, “that time no longer shall be.” “Time” is cronos which refers to a duration of time, time as a period of time. Some see this as a declaration that time will be no more. As “there will be no more sea” (21:1), “no more death” (21:4), and “no more night” (22:5), so there will be “no more time” (10:6). But with all of these except 10:6 we have the negative “no,” the verb “to be,” and the word eti meaning “more.” In 10:6 “more” is missing. This is not saying that “time will be no more,” but that “time has run out,” that “there will be no more time before God completes His purposes on earth as the earth or world exists today.”
Verse 7 explains this and makes the concept clear. When the seventh angel sounds, then the mystery of God will be finished, there will be no more delay, time will have run out. But what is meant by the words, “the mystery of God is finished, as He preached to His prophets”? Surely, the mystery of God is the answer to the age-old question, why has God allowed Satan and evil to continue to exist? The answer to this is found in Scripture. It was preached by God to His prophets, they proclaimed it, and it is now found in the Bible.
Kelly identifies “the mystery of God” as: “… the secret of allowing Satan to have his own way, and man too (this is to say, the wonder of evil prospering and of good being trodden underfoot). God checks, no doubt, the evil in a measure, partly through human government and partly through His own providential dealings.”136
Certainly also, God restrains this evil through the indwelling ministry of the Holy Spirit in the church (2 Thess. 2:5-9). But when the Tribulation begins, this check will have been removed. This mystery, which the Tribulation will help to remove through its judgments, is a truth about God proclaimed by the prophets. It is a truth that involves two key features—truth concerning the conflict with Satan and evil, and truth about the establishment of God’s kingdom that will put an end to Satan and his activity.
Concerning the establishment of God’s kingdom, Newel writes:
This expression, “the mystery of God,” in this connection seems to indicate all those counsels and dealings of God made known by Him to and through the Old Testament prophets, concerning His governmental proceedings with men on earth looking always toward the establishment of the kingdom in the hands of Christ. When Christ comes to take the kingdom, there will be no mystery, but, on the contrary, manifestation.137
Concerning the problem of the age old conflict with Satan and evil, Scott has written:
Does it not seem strange that Satan has been allowed for 6000 years to wrap and twist his coils around the world, to work evil and spoil and mar the work of God? What havoc he has wrought! He is the god of this world and the prince of the power of the air. God’s saints have ever been the objects of his fiercest malignity. Is it not a mystery why God, the God of righteousness and holiness, allows evil to go unpunished and His own people to be crushed and broken on every hand? Truly this is the mystery of God. Is it that He is indifferent to the wrong, indifferent to the sorrows of His people? Nay, that were impossible. God bears with evil till the hour of judgment arrives, when He will avenge the cry of His elect, and come out of His place to punish the wicked. The checks and restraints upon evil now are unseen as to their source, and are only of partial application. Everything in the world and in the Church is out of order save what God by His Spirit produces.
Now, however, this mystery of God is about to be finished, and God by His Son, the Heir of all things, will wrest the government of the world from the iron grasp of Satan, confine him as a prisoner in the abyss for 1,000 years, finally casting him into the lake of fire for eternity, and then rule and reign in manifested power and glory…
This is indeed glad tidings proclaimed to His prophets of old, not declared by them (although they did that as their books testify), but to them, …”138
So when the angel of Revelation 10:7 says “time shall be no more” he means that once the seventh trumpet is sounded, this time of allowing Satan and rebellion to continue, will be over; God will act swiftly now to establish His rule of righteousness on earth. This period of the patience of God is over.
The first assignment (vs. 8). The same voice that forbade John to write what the seven peals of thunder spoke (vs. 4), now commands him to take the open book or scroll from the hand of the angel.
The second assignment (vss. 9-10). John, in obedience to the voice, takes the book, but then the angel gives him another assignment. John is commanded to eat the book which will be bitter to his stomach, but sweet in his mouth. It will give him heartburn, but it will be sweet to the taste. What is the point of this? Eating is often a picture of learning and assimilating the word of God (cf. Ezek. 2:9-10; 3:1-4, 14; Jer. 15:15-18). The opened book undoubtedly contained prophetic truth and revelations from God. As a book already opened it could have contained Old Testament truth, but it also could well have contained new revelation that John was about to write as contained in the rest of Revelation regarding the subjects mentioned in verse 11. As Ryrie says, “the point of this interlude during which John was commanded to assimilate these prophecies before he wrote them is simply that it is necessary for the prophet of God to let the word of God affect him first before he ministers it to others.”139
In verse 10 John obeys the angel, and as the angel said, it was sweet in his mouth, but bitter in his stomach. Doubtless he was delighted with the fact of this revelation from God which revealed that God was taking over His kingdom and would defeat His enemies. But as he pondered and reflected on the nature of this revelation (God’s wrath, the revelation of the man of sin, Satan’s kingdom, the worship of the beast, the persecution of Israel, the manifestation of man’s heart and rebellion, etc.), the message of the book became bitter in his stomach—it gave him spiritual heartburn.
Likewise today we are invited to come to the Word of God and feed on its truth. As we study prophecy and contemplate the nature of our times we become more confident that the return of the Lord draws ever nearer and in this we rejoice, but these are days of ever increasing spiritual darkness, rebellion and apostasy. This saddens the heart and greatly increases the burdens and pressures of life. It causes bitterness of soul.
The third assignment (vs. 11). In verses 4 and 8 a voice from heaven speaks to John, then the mighty angel in verse 9. But now we read “and they (plural) said to me.” The verb is a third person plural, “they said.” This is what is known as an indefinite or a literary plural sometimes used to hide the precise subject. Whether this came from the voice from heaven, or from the angel, or from some other source is not important. It is left indefinite. What is important is the commission or the assignment. “You must (Greek dei, pointing to a moral necessity) prophesy again (following this interlude, he must once more pick up his prophetic pen) concerning many peoples and nations and tongues and kings.”
“Many,” the Greek pollois, a plural dative from polus, is emphatic and strongly stresses the vastness of that which he must prophesy. The prophecies of the last days of the Tribulation encompass not just one people, or king, or domain, but the entire earth that belongs to God—that He is about to reclaim. The whole world will lie in rebellion and apostasy. All the races, peoples and kingdoms will come under the power of the beast and his satanic system.
The word “concerning” is the preposition epi used with the dative case. Contextually, this means, not to them, nor in their midst or presence, nor against them, but concerning their individual cases as it will exist in these final days of the Tribulation. This is undoubtedly the content of the little book, much of which we have in the final portion of Revelation and perhaps also in Old Testament prophecies such as Daniel.