John Eats a Little Book

The sixth trumpet has sounded, symbolizing the final death and judgment of those who reject the testimony about Jesus Christ. Before the seventh trumpet is blasted, there is a second interlude. The first interlude (Chapter 7), John described the conquering work of Jesus Christ prior to His work of judgment. In this interlude, John describes the two types of testimony (or testaments, the legal will of God) through which Christ calls His people and judges the unholy.

Revelation 10:1-11

I saw another strong angel coming down out of heaven, clothed with a cloud; and the rainbow was upon his head, and his face was like the sun, and his feet like pillars of fire; and he had in his hand a little book which was open. He placed his right foot on the sea and his left on the land; and he cried out with a loud voice, as when a lion roars; and when he had cried out, the seven peals of thunder uttered their voices.

When the seven peals of thunder had spoken, I was about to write; and I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Seal up the things which the seven peals of thunder have spoken and do not write them.”

Then the angel whom I saw standing on the sea and on the land lifted up his right hand to heaven, and swore by Him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and the things in it, and the earth and the things in it, and the sea and the things in it, that there will be delay no longer, but in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, then the mystery of God is finished, as He preached to His servants the prophets.

Then the voice which I heard from heaven, I heard again speaking with me, and saying, “Go, take the book which is open in the hand of the angel who stands on the sea and on the land.”

So I went to the angel, telling him to give me the little book. And he said to me, “Take it and eat it; it will make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be sweet as honey.”

I took the little book out of the angel’s hand and ate it, and in my mouth it was sweet as honey; and when I had eaten it, my stomach was made bitter.

And they said to me, “You must prophesy again concerning many peoples and nations and tongues and kings.”

The angel and book (v. 1-3)

I saw another strong angel coming down out of heaven, clothed with a cloud; and the rainbow was upon his head, and his face was like the sun, and his feet like pillars of fire; and he had in his hand a little book which was open. He placed his right foot on the sea and his left on the land; and he cried out with a loud voice, as when a lion roars; and when he had cried out, the seven peals of thunder uttered their voices.

The angel is Jesus (cf. 1:7, 9-20; 4:3, 5; 5:5). Jesus has broken the seven seals on the book (cf. 5:1-8:1). He places one foot on the sea and one on the land, signifying His holistic dominion. He roars like a lion, the Lion of Judah. At His roar, the seven peals of thunder utter their voices. The definite article, ο, indicates that John is referring to a particular seven peals of thunder. Which ones? These were the peals of thunder that emanated form the throne of God and symbolized God’s decree (4:5; cf. Exodus 19:16-17). John now ascribes to them the number 7, which is the apocalyptic number of completeness. The seven peals of thunder are the complete decree, revelation, of God.

Whatever John is about to describe, it deals specifically with the complete revelation of God. The little book is the word of God. When Jesus roars, the word of God is revealed. Jesus is the one revealing the word of the Father. To whom is God’s word revealed, and how much of God’s word is revealed? When is God’s word revealed?

The revelation (v. 4-7)

When the seven peals of thunder had spoken, I was about to write; and I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Seal up the things which the seven peals of thunder have spoken and do not write them.”

I have heard many use this particular verse that insist John received secret knowledge. I am not convinced by such a gnostic teaching. The symbol does refer to a hidden revelation, but not secret knowledge. Scripture teaches as much. Concerning the prophet, Isaiah, Jesus blessed His disciples:

…blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear. For truly I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it (Matthew 13:16-17).

He spoke about Abraham:

Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad (John 8:56).

John is a character in his own symbol. Jesus is speaking to John like He did Abraham and the Old Testament prophets. Old Testament prophets and righteous men desired to see the revelation of Jesus Christ. They knew about it. They foretold a coming messiah and the signs that would accompany His coming, but they could not reveal the fullness of God. This image is about the giving of the Old Testament through the prophets beginning with Moses. At the advent of the messiah:

He will declare all things to us (John 4:25; cf. Deuteronomy 18:15-18; Daniel 9:24-26).

The author of Hebrews revealed:

God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they (Hebrews 1:1-4).

Jesus, Himself, claimed:

For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice (John 18:37).

The Old Testament human authors could not fully reveal God. God incarnate can and did in His incarnation. This image concerns the first testament of God given through the prophets prior to the full revelation of God to humanity.

Then the angel whom I saw standing on the sea and on the land lifted up his right hand to heaven, and swore by Him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and the things in it, and the earth and the things in it, and the sea and the things in it, that there will be delay no longer, but in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, then the mystery of God is finished, as He preached to His servants the prophets.

Through the Old Testament, the revelation (mystery) of God was not finished. In this text, Jesus raises His hand and swears that God’s revelation to humanity will be finished. All seven peals of thunder will finally be written just as Daniel prophesied things would be at the end of the age; Daniel’s prophecy was fulfilled in Christ (Daniel 12). The revelatory work will be accomplished at the time of the blasting of the seventh trumpet just like He promised the Old Testament prophets—which necessarily means that Christ has been doing the work described in the trumpets throughout history and will climax at His second coming—the final judgment. It also necessarily means that the seventh trumpet is blasted at His incarnation—the incarnation of God’s exact representation, His word (cf. John 1:1-18).

The purpose of the Old Testament (Law or Prophets) was not legislative but revelatory. A testament is not a covenant; there are many covenants described in the testaments. A testament is not a dispensation. A testament a legal will, the legal wishes of someone—as in will and testament. Christ, the word who spoke to the prophets, is the full revelation of God—written about in the New Testament. John’s vision is even called “The Revelation” or “Unveiling”—not “The Hiding Away.” Jesus came in order to testify to the truth, to reveal.

The bitterness of the Law (v. 8-11)

Then the voice which I heard from heaven, I heard again speaking with me, and saying, “Go, take the book which is open in the hand of the angel who stands on the sea and on the land.”
So I went to the angel, telling him to give me the little book. And he said to me, “Take it and eat it; it will make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be sweet as honey.”
I took the little book out of the angel’s hand and ate it, and in my mouth it was sweet as honey; and when I had eaten it, my stomach was made bitter.

If the book is the first (old) testament, the bitterness makes sense. The prophets loved hearing from God, but their message was often the pronouncement of woes upon the nations—including Israel. What was sweet to their lips turned sour in their stomachs (cf. Ezekiel 2:8-3:7). Until the advent of Christ, the Old Testament stood as a testimony against people (Deuteronomy 31:26; 32). It increased the trespass (Romans 5:20-21). It revealed that all people fall short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23) and foretold the coming messiah who would provide the life that the Law and Prophets could not (John 5:39). 

And they said to me, “You must prophesy again concerning many peoples and nations and tongues and kings.”

The seven peals of thunder revealed to John that, what was to remain hidden before, would be provided in a second testament. This New Testament concerned many peoples, nations, tongues, and kings. The Old Testament was given to Israel. The New Testament is the fulfillment of the Old, consistent with the Old, completes the Old, and is given to every nation. John’s revelation concerns all nations, not merely Israel or Rome. Neither the Old nor New Testaments can be neglected. The Old Testament, bitterness in the stomach, explains why the Gospel is such good news.

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