Next, John saw the scroll again, only this time, it was unsealed and completely open – Revelation 10:1-11.
The trumpet “plagues” have not caused the “inhabitants of the earth” to repent and give God glory; instead, they have served to further harden their hearts. Something more is 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 for John to “prophesy” to the nations is actualized by the “measuring of the sanctuary” and the prophetic work of the “two witnesses.” These events are all parts of the “second woe,” which does not conclude until after the deaths and “resurrection” of the “two witnesses” – (Revelation 11:12-14).
At the start of this next vision, John sees the “little scroll” fully “opened,” which means its contents are about to be implemented.
- (Revelation 10:1-7) – “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. 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.”
The angel is called “another” (allos) to distinguish him from the seven angels that sounded the trumpets. His description echoes language from the 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).
Thus, the “mighty angel” is linked to Jesus, the “throne,” and the “sealed scroll.” He is the same “mighty angel” who asked previously, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and to break its seals?” – (Revelation 5:1-12).
“Little scroll” translates the Greek term biblaridion, the diminutive form of the noun for “scroll” used elsewhere in the book. It 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 by 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, the formerly sealed “scroll” lies open, for 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. In Revelation, this can only refer to the “seven spirits of God” seen earlier before the “throne,” and later, in the possession of the “Lamb” – (Revelation 1:4, 4:5, 5:6).
Whatever John “heard,” there was no need to record it because the “sealed scroll” was opened fully. All that was necessary to complete the “mystery of God” was revealed already, and therefore, there would be “no more delay.” The time had arrived to finish the “mystery of God,” which would be completed by the time the “seventh trumpet” sounded.
“Delay” translates the Greek noun kronos. 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, “servants” refers to followers of Jesus. Here, the term “prophets” is set in apposition to “his servants,” which 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, for it contained both promises and suffering 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 this roll. 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, “kings” are now 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 declared to be the “ruler of the kings of the earth,” and later, 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 was told he must “prophesy.” This Greek verb occurs only once more in Revelation when it is applied to the “two witnesses” 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.