The Revelation: Part Fifteen

DURING THE LENGTHY INTERVAL between the sixth and seventh trumpets, John has several key visions that require us to take a closer look before moving on to Revelation 11:15 and the sounding of the seventh trumpet. John sees a mighty angel standing with one foot on land and the other in the sea, holding a small scroll in his hand. Many biblical scholars describe the small scroll as “a little book.” John presents some additional information during this interlude that joins the previous events with those yet to come. The phrase “I saw another” indicates this is an intervening vision rather than a continuation of what John has seen to this point in the Revelation.

“Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven, wrapped in a cloud, with a rainbow over his head, and his face was like the sun, and his legs like pillars of fire. He had a little scroll open in his hand. And he set his right foot on the sea, and his left foot on the land, and called out with a loud voice, like a lion roaring. When he called out, the seven thunders sounded.” (Rev. 10:1-3).

At the sounding of the seven thunders, John begins to write down what the thunders are saying, but a voice from heaven says, “Seal up what the seven thunders have said, and do not write it down” (10:4). There are a number of interpretations regarding this command to John. It is suggested that what was said was meant for John alone, but this smacks of Gnosticism and is not a valid interpretation. What was said by the seven thunders was also contained in the little book.

“Then the voice that I had heard from heaven spoke to me again, saying, ‘Go, take the scroll that is open in the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land.’ So I went to the angel and told him to give me the little scroll.
And he said to me, “Take and eat it; it will make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be sweet as honey‘” (Rev. 10:8-9).

John’s role changes at this point; whereas, up to this moment he was an observer, now he is a participant. Immediately after John is told to seal up the message of the thunders, he is told to eat the Little Book. Perhaps what is being roared aloud by the seven thunders is so chaotic and noisome, containing such horrific descriptions of that will commence and the sounding of the seventh trumpet, that John cannot possibly write it fast enough and would be overwhelmed by hearing it all at once. Rather, John eats the book so he can prophesy what he has take in. He has to consume (or “absorb”) what is written in the little book before he can share it. This little book does not represent the entire New Testament, nor does it contain the entire Revelation.

The Revelation prepares John for prophesy concerning the final things. He wrote the Revelation in A.D. 96, and he died in A.D. 99. John was the last living disciple of Christ.

The Angel and the Little Scroll

The “Little Scroll” (Gr. biblaridion) in the hand of this angel is not the same as the Scroll (Gr. biblion) of Revelation 5:1, which contains all of the prophecies mentioned in Revelation 6 through 22. There are a number of theories about what is contained in the little scroll. For example, some theologians believe it represents Christ, but this is not possible as there is only one Second Coming, which occurs in Revelation 19. John eats the small scroll. Its contents must become part of him so that he can thoroughly understand and pass on its message with greater meaning and force. It has a sweet taste at first, as God’s message often does, but when John grasps the judgments to come, he finds the taste unpleasant. There is no joy in what he has to announce (8-11; cf. Ezekiel 3:1-3; 2 Cor. 2:15-16).

There is a parallel between Revelation 10 and Daniel 10. The LORD showed great visions exclusively to John and Daniel about things yet to come. Daniel was standing on the bank of the Tigris when he looked up and saw a man clothed in linen, with a belt of fine gold around his waist. The others with Daniel became afraid and they fled, so Daniel was alone when the LORD said to him, “[I] came to make you understand what is to happen to your people in the latter days. For the vision is for days yet to come” (Dan. 10:14). Being most troubled by what he saw, Daniel wrote, “O my LORD, by reason of the vision pains have come upon me, I retain no strength” (Dan. 10:16). And John sees a mighty angel standing over land and sea.

The Two Witnesses

“And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth” (Rev. 11:3).

Witnesses are presumably unopposed during the first half of the tribulation. John MacArthur notes that these remaining two witnesses “…will fearlessly proclaim the gospel during the last half of the seven-year tribulation for forty-two months.”1 They wear sackcloth, symbolizing their mourning for the sins of the rebellious world. They are referred to as olive trees and lampstands, in that they shed the Light of the LORD, allowing sinners to hear the gospel message one last time. Olive oil was a common source of fuel, and lamps lit the way. Revelation 11:5 says, “And if anyone would harm them, fire pours from their mouth and consumes their foes. If anyone would harm them, this is how he is doomed to be killed.” They remain untouchable until their service is completed. They have power to shut up the heavens, like the great drought announced by Elijah (1 Kings 17:1; James 5:17), and to turn the water to blood, as during the Exodus plague (Exo. 7:17).

The names Sodom and Egypt are used by John to draw attention to the depravity to which this once-faithful city of God has sunk; this “great city” of Babylon mentioned throughout Revelation. “Sodom” connotes rebellion against God, rejection of His servants and prophets, moral denigration, and ultimate judgment of Almighty God. “Egypt” symbolizes worldly autocratic kingdoms that reject God and enslave Israel. John places Babylon, Sodom, Egypt, Jerusalem, Nineveh, and Rome together as places that have opposed God over the course of history.

In verse 8, haters of God desecrate the bodies of the two witnesses by denying them a ceremonial burial. Instead, their dead bodies are left to rot in the street. The whole world rejoices at the death of these two prophets who hounded them with relentless rebukes. After three and a half days, the breath of life from God enters the two and they stand up on their feet. John says, “…and great fear fell on those who saw them” (11:11). God vindicates the death of the two witnesses and mistreatment of their bodies by causing a great earthquake to strike the earth, killing 7,000 people. Many of those who survived the earthquake were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven, while others remained in their unbelief.

Steven Barto, B.S. Psy., M.A. Theology

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture referenced herein is from the English Standard Version (ESV) of the Holy Bible.

1 John MacArthur, Because the Time is Near (Chicago, IL: Moody, 2007), 179.

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