John saw the scroll again, now unsealed and completely open, signifying his call to prophesy once more to peoples and kings – Revelation 10:1-11.
The first six trumpet plagues failed to cause the “inhabitants of the earth” to repent. Instead, they only further hardened their hearts. Something more was needed to complete “the mystery of God.” The narrative now takes a new direction. Rather than another plague, John is commissioned to prophesy to the “nations and kings of the earth.”
The summons to “prophesy” to the nations is portrayed in the “measuring of the sanctuary” and the prophetic “testimony” of the “two witnesses.” These events are parts of the “second woe” or sixth trumpet, which does not conclude until after the deaths of the “two witnesses” – (Revelation 11:12-14).
At the start of this vision, John saw the “little scroll,” now fully “opened.” That meant its contents were about to be implemented.
- (Revelation 10:1-4) – “And I saw another mighty angel descending out of heaven arrayed with a cloud, and the rainbow was upon his head, and his face was as the sun, and his feet were as pillars of fire, and he was holding in his hand a little scroll, opened, and he set his right foot upon the sea and his left upon the land, and cried out with a loud voice, just as a lion roars. And when he cried out, the seven thunders uttered their own voices. And when the seven thunders had spoken, I was about to write and I heard a voice out of heaven, saying: Seal up the things which the seven thunders have uttered and do not write them.”
The angel is called “another” (allos) to distinguish him from the seven angels that sounded the first six trumpets. The description echoes language from the book’s opening vision of the “one like a Son of Man” who had “feet like burnished brass, a voice like many waters and his countenance like the sun.” The angel also has a “rainbow” over his head that recalls the “rainbow round about the throne” – (Revelation 1:15-16, 4:3-4).
The imagery links the “mighty angel” to the “Lamb,” the “throne,” and the “sealed scroll.” But he is not Jesus, but the same “mighty angel” who asked previously in the vision of the “sealed scroll” – “Who is worthy to open the scroll and to break its seals?” – (Revelation 5:1-12).
The term “little scroll” translates the Greek term biblaridion, the diminutive form of the noun for “scroll” used elsewhere in Revelation. In the present vision, the scroll is also called the “scroll” or biblion (“Take the scroll opened in the hand of the angel”). It is identical to the “scroll sealed with seven seals,” only now, it is “opened” and held in the hand of the “mighty angel.” It is “little” in comparison to him, for he is large enough to straddle land and sea.
The picture draws on the passage from Daniel when two angelic figures stood on either side of the Tigris River. One asked, “How long shall it be to the end of these wonders?” The “man clothed with linen” then swore by him who “lives forever” and answered – “For a set time and times and a half, when the dispersion of a part of the holy people is ended, then will come to an end all these things.”
Daniel did not understand and was told the words were “sealed until the time of the end.” Now, in John’s vision, the formerly sealed “scroll” lies open since the “seven seals” have been broken – (Daniel 12:5-9).
The angel roared like a lion and the “seven thunders uttered their voices.” John was commanded NOT to write down what he heard. In the Greek text, “seven thunders” has the Greek definite article, it is THE “seven thunders,” that is, something that is known.
Previously, the “seven spirits of God” were associated with the “throne” and the “thunders” and the other phenomena that issued from it – “And out of the throne proceed flashes of lightning and voices and claps of thunder. And there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.” In Revelation, the “flashes of lightning, voices, and claps of thunder” are heard at the close of each sevenfold series (seals, trumpets, “bowls of wrath”).
Thus the “seven thunders” that issued their “voice” are the “seven spirits of God” that were before the “throne of God,” and later became the possession of the “Lamb” – (Revelation 1:4, 4:5, 5:6).
- (Revelation 10:5-7) – “And the angel whom I saw standing upon the sea and upon the land lifted up his right hand unto heaven and swore by him that lives unto the ages of ages, who created 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, delay, no longer shall there be; but in the days of the sounding of the seventh angel, as soon as he is about to blow his trumpet, then shall be completed the mystery of God as he told the good-news to his servants, the prophets.”
Whatever John did “hear,” there was no need to record it since now the “sealed scroll” lay open with its contents revealed. All that was necessary to complete the “mystery of God” had been revealed, therefore, there would be “no more delay.” The time had come to finish the “mystery of God,” which would be completed by the time the “seventh trumpet” sounded.
“Delay” translates the Greek noun kronos or “time.” The statement answers the question asked by the martyrs “underneath the altar” – How long must they wait before God judged the “inhabitants of the earth.” They were told to rest for “a little time” (kronos) until the full number of martyrs was assembled. That “time” has arrived – (Revelation 6:9-11).
“His servants, the prophets.” Elsewhere in Revelation, “servants” refers to followers of Jesus. Here, the term is in apposition to “his servants.” This further identifies them. The exact same phrase occurs at the “seventh trumpet” when “the dead are judged and that you should reward your servants, the prophets.”
- (Revelation 10:8-11) – “Go, take the opened scroll that is in the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land. And I went to the angel, asking him to give me the little scroll; and he said to me: Take it, and eat it, and it shall embitter your belly, but in your mouth shall be sweet as honey. And I took the little scroll out of the hand of the angel and devoured it, and it was in my mouth sweet as honey, and when I had eaten it, embittered was my belly. And they say to me: You must again prophesy to peoples and nations and tongues, and many kings.”
In his “mouth,” the scroll was both sweet and bitter. It contained both promises and trials for the saints. The passage alludes to Ezekiel when the prophet was told to eat a “roll” that he found sweet as honey. In that case, there was no mention of bitterness. Ezekiel was told to “go speak to the house of Israel” after consuming it. In contrast, John is now commanded to prophesy to nations and kings – (Ezekiel 3:1-4).
The term “peoples and nations and tongues” is common in Revelation. However, here, “kings” are added to the list, presumably, the same group elsewhere labeled the “kings of the earth” – (Revelation 16:12-14, 17:2, 17:14-15, 18:9, 19:18).
While the “kings of the earth” are most often hostile to the “Lamb,” Jesus is identified as the “ruler of the kings of the earth,” and later, as the “king of kings.” In the end, the same group is found in “New Jerusalem.” Despite their past hostility, “testimony” must be given to the “kings of the earth” – (Revelation 1:5, 19:6, 21:24).
John is told that he must “prophesy.” This Greek verb occurs only once more in the book when it is applied to the “two witnesses” who are empowered to prophesy “a thousand two hundred and sixty days clothed in sackcloth.” That vision will present quite graphically just how this commission will be fulfilled.
The stage is now set for the visions of the measuring of the sanctuary and the prophetic “testimony” of the “two witnesses.”