The Mystery

Revelation 10

Friday, November 25, 2022

After the sixth trumpet we have a break when John is prepared for what comes next, which mirrors the break after the sixth seal when the 144,000 were sealed. We are reminded that all through this vision John has been writing what he sees, as Jesus told him to do back in 1:19 (10:4). I wonder if he started the vision in front of a blank scroll and finished with a completed work. Or was the writing part of his vision, and he needed to rewrite it all afterward? And I wonder, again, how often what he wrote came to him as part of the vision and how often his words are his efforts to convey what he experienced. For example, did John make the distinction of a “strong angel” himself, based on experience in this vision looking at different angels?

It wasn’t pointed out at the time, but in chapter 5 it was a “strong angel” that proclaimed the question about whether anyone could open the seals of the book in God’s hand. And now a “strong angel” holds the small book John will eat. Perhaps this is setting up transitions in the vision for us, as the book John eats seems to establish his personal involvement in the next part of the vision. (There is one more “strong angel” reference, in 18:21, punctuating and concluding the section on Babylon.)

When our strong angel in chapter 10 cries out like a lion roars, seven peals of thunder respond – these may refer to the peals of thunder that come from God’s throne (4:5). But John is told by a voice from heaven not to write down what the thunders said. Among all the details in Revelation this lack of information can be one of the most interesting things for us. What secret is left out here? I have sometimes suggested it might have been a self-unfulfilling prophecy (my own phrase), something we can’t be allowed to know because knowing it in advance would make it awkward for it to still take place. Like “tomorrow [fill in the blank date] king [fill in the blank name] falls.” In the context it is hard to expect a minor statement – the strong angel is just about to swear an oath by God that the mystery of God is on the verge of being completed.

The same voice from heaven tells John to get the book and eat it, which he does, but first he is warned by the strong angel that it will be sweet in his mouth but bitter in his stomach. This is interesting, because in Ezekiel 2:8–3:3 we get a similar story of eating a scroll that tastes sweet but there is no mention of bitterness. This is more like comments in Jeremiah 15:16-17 about him eating God’s words and finding them a joy and delight, but then being filled with indignation. What John ate was easy to take in but would result in him needing to “prophesy again concerning many people and nations and tongues and kings.” The phrase “prophesy again” is sometimes taken to mean that the next part of the vision will revisit ground, duplicating some parts of the story to get at new aspects of it. And not all of that prophecy would be a joy and a delight. But God will be revealing what He recognizes needs to be shown.

It may be worth recalling that John is in exile when he sees this vision. He will emerge from it to send his letters, his warnings and encouragements and predictions, and continue in exile. We don’t really know how bringing more attention to himself this way during a time of persecution affected his situation. Maybe not positively. But John was God’s worker and working for God isn’t always pleasant for the one working, at the time. But I trust that John absolutely knew the job was worth it, and I hope that he found the experience of his vision encouraging.

Lord, forgive me the foolishness I sometimes experience of wanting to know what you aren’t interested in telling me, and showing too little interest in what you have made plain for me. You have shown me things that are good, help me to act on that awareness. You have shown me things that are not good, help me to act on that awareness as well. If at times I have found your words bitter in my stomach I have little right to claim I have been cheated, for they were sweet on my tongue. And I acknowledge you have given me far more than I ever can give you. Help me to serve you as I ought to, even if I feel I am in the valley of the shadow of death. Your light can never be overcome. I will trust in you. Amen.

-Daniel Smead

Reflection Questions

  1. What are your thoughts and feelings when you read verse 7, “But in the days when the seventh angel is about to sound his trumpet, the mystery of God will be accomplished, just as he announced to his servants the prophets.”
  2. What words of God might be sweet in the mouth, but sour in the stomach?

Sweet & Sour

Revelation Ch. 10

Revelation 10 11 NIIV.png

Every time that I go back and read through Revelation, I think about how awesome it would be to see it in a movie or comic book, since it is full of amazing imagery, suspense, and some humor. I see a little bit of dramatic humor coming out in chapter ten, as we are about to get the information that we have been desiring since chapter five… and then we don’t. I feel as if John wants to keep us on the suspense train as long as possible in order to make his point.

 

After the sixth trumpet sounds, we are introduced to an angel that is holding a “small” scroll in his hand. Now, this scroll is likely the same Scroll that we saw in God’s hand in chapter five, and the same Scroll that had the seven seals broken off through chapters six, seven, and eight. Narratively speaking, we have not learned the contents of that original Scroll yet, so it is unlikely that this is a brand-new scroll that is being introduced into the storyline. The size of the Scroll is not a major point; it is possible that the Scroll had to become smaller for John to later eat it. If the Scroll was the same size as it was in chapter five, being able to fit in God’s hand, John could be eating it for quite a while.

 

Coming back to the dramatics of the story, we are finally going to learn what the Scroll says! This is the moment when we find out what God’s message is to His people!… and then John eats it… and it is sweet in his mouth, but bitter in his stomach… What in the world is going on here?

 

John is acting like one of the Old Testament prophets, Ezekiel, who also was told to eat a scroll from God and then to speak the message of its contents (see Ezekiel 3:1-3). In like manner, whatever John is going to speak next in the story is going to be the contents of this Scroll. Although it is a strange method to communicate to the seven churches, it gets the job done; it is probably better that we don’t question everything God chooses to do, because we could drive ourselves crazy trying to understand it all.

 

What we can learn practically today from this message is that sometimes God’s message can be sweet and bitter at the same time. The gospel is fantastic news that will bring us eternal, perfect life, but is also bitter as we are called to die to ourselves daily as we follow Jesus. Just like everything in life, there are good and difficult consequences to our decisions, and the decision to follow Jesus is no different. I encourage you to look at both sides of the coin before moving forward, because it can become difficult. Is the reward enough for you to go through the bitter consequences?

 

Talon Paul

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