Angel with a secret John can’t tell
- 10:1 I saw another strong angel. Wrapped in a cloud, he descended from the sky. As he did, a rainbow hovered high over his head. His face glowed like the sun, and his legs burned bright like two pillars on fire.1
- 10:2 He held a small, opened scroll2 in his hand. He stepped onto the sea with his right foot and onto the land with his left foot.3
- 10:3 Then he let out a yell like the roar of a lion. Seven thunders4 answered him with their voices.
- 10:4 As the seven thunders spoke, I started to write down their words. But a voice from heaven stopped me. I heard the voice say, “Seal those words inside your head and keep them to yourself. Don’t write them down.”
- 10:5 Then the angel standing with one foot on land and the other on sea raised his right hand high in the air.
- 10:6 He made an announcement. He swore that what he was about to say came from the immortal one who made sky, earth, and sea—and everything in them: “Time’s up!
- 10:7 When the seventh angel blows that seventh trumpet, God’s secret plan5 for the world won’t be secret anymore. It will become a done deal, as he told the prophets earlier."6
- 10:8 The voice from heaven spoke to me again. The voice said, “Go over to the angel standing on land and sea. Take the open scroll the angel is holding.”
- 10:9 So I went to the angel and asked for the scroll. The angel said, “Take this and eat it.7 It’s going to taste sweet as honey in your mouth, but it’s going to give you a stomachache.”8
- 10:10 I took the little scroll from the angel’s hand. I ate it, and sure enough it tasted sweet as honey in my mouth. But it soured my stomach something awful.
- 10:11 They9 told me, “You’ve got to go back and prophesy against10 these people again. Warn people everywhere, as well as their kings. Warn them in nations all over the world, no matter what language they speak.”
There’s no other angel in Revelation who gets an introduction as glorifying as this one, which rivals the description of Jesus (Revelation 1:13-16).
Some Bible experts say this is the same scroll mentioned in Revelation 5. But other scholars say this scroll is uniquely identified as a small scroll. Some scholars say this scroll is just a piece of the larger scroll, which represents Gods plan for ending the world and creating a new heaven and a new earth (Revelation 21:1). That’s why there is a sweet and a sour taste that John experiences after eating this scroll. What God is doing is sweet to his people who are rewarded with eternal life. But it’s bitter to those who reject him and who will suffer the consequences.
Conquerors would lay claim to land by stepping foot onto the land. They might disembark their warship or dismount their warhorse and stand firmly on the ground as an expression of authority. Scholars debate why this angel stepped onto both the land and the sea, but some say they wonder if it may have been tied to this tradition.
The seven thunders may represent the voice of God, some Bible expert speculate. Bible writers often compare God’s voice to thunder (Exodus 19:19; Job 37:2, 4). And in Psalm 29:3-9, song lyrics describe the voice of God in seven distinct ways. Some say that might be part of the backstory for the seven thunders. Other Bible experts make a case for the possibility that the seven thunders may represent the name of God, which John is ordered not to write down. One piece of evidence: An ancient collection of Greek rituals, hymns, and magical spells from about 100 BC-AD 400s says “write the great name with the seven vowels” (Greek Magical Papyri, called PGM, 13.39). Perhaps, some say, John was ordered to do just the opposite (10:4).
The “secret plan,” some scholars say, is what happens after the angel blows the trumpet. Jesus comes back. He decimates all opposition. The world as we know it ends. God’s people live on with him in heaven. God wins. Satan loses. Oops, there goes the secret. Perhaps.
Amos 3:7 says God does nothing without first confiding in “his servants the prophets.”
“Take this and eat it” (Matthew 26:26) is the same thing Jesus told his disciples when he gave them bread at the Last Supper.
See note for 10:2 about why the scroll tastes sweet but later sours the stomach.
John doesn’t say who “they” were. Presumably they were the strong angel and the voice from heaven. Whoever they were, they seemed to speak for God.
“Against” is from the Greek word epi, which can also mean “about.” Many Bible translations run in that direction. But given the context of what John has just experienced, other scholars say John more likely was going to deliver bad news. The end of the world qualifies, it could seem.
John sees an angel that he introduces in such glowing terms that it rivals his description of Jesus (Revelation 1:13-16). Perhaps the oddest thing about this angel is that “He stepped onto the sea with his right foot and onto the land with his left foot” (10:2). We might as well guess what’s going on here because that’s what Bible scholars do. So, give it a try.
Compare the angel John saw standing on land and water to the one the prophet Daniel saw hovering above a river (Daniel 12:6-7). Do you think they’re both talking about the same thing?
When the angel “let out a yell like the roar of a lion” (10:3), seven thunders answered him and then started talking. So, John started to write down what the seven thunders said. Why would you guess some scholars suggest that the seven thunders were actually the voice of God himself?
John wanted to report what the seven thunders said, but a voice from heaven told him, “Seal those words inside your head and keep them to yourself. Don’t write them down” (10:4). What could possibly be the secret?
John ate a little scroll that an angel gave him. He said, “It tasted sweet as honey in my mouth. But it soured my stomach something awful” (10:10). More than 600 years earlier, a prophet named Ezekiel did much the same. But he didn’t get a stomachache: “It tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth” (Ezekiel 3:3 New Living Translation). What do you think John’s sweet and sour scroll may have meant, assuming it symbolized something?
LIFE APPLICATION. “Warn people everywhere as well as their kings. Warn them in nations all over the world, no matter what language they speak” (10:11). To what extent does that job of warning people apply to us?