As we discover in Revelation 10:1-11, the same necessity of speaking truth (even the negative message of judgment) is upon the Church. In this first half of an interlude between the sixth and seventh trumpets (just as there was an interlude in Revelation 7 between the sixth and seventh seals), we are reminded that in the midst of hostile cultures that ignore the true God at best and flat out reject him and his truth at worst, we are called to speak the whole truth of God. This means not only speaking positive and encouraging messages, but also speaking the truth about where people are at without Christ. We are to proclaim a gospel that also explains why the good news (there is a remedy, there is salvation in Christ!) is needed in the first place, namely that we all are terminal in our condition. In other words, we are sinners who are spiritually dead, under God’s judgment, and if this is not taken care of, it becomes eternally permanent. Though not a popular message, it is what faithful physicians of the soul, obedient witnesses to Jesus Christ, share.
And it is this very message that the Church facing push back at best or persecution at worst is tempted to abandon, tweak, or change completely. This is why in this interlude Jesus Christ recommissions John and the Church to keep proclaiming the whole gospel of the glory of salvation in Jesus so God’s judgment on sinners can be avoided (Rev. 10:1-11), even though it will mean persecution for many—a persecution in the midst of which God will protect his people in the ultimate sense (Rev. 11:1-13).
In this week’s post, we will unpack the first half of this interlude, which includes our reminder to preach the entire truth of God: Both judgment and salvation.
1. The Reality This Is An Interlude Between Trumpets Six And Seven, And Spans This Entire Age.
Virtually all commentators acknowledge Revelation 10:1-11:13 forms an interlude or parenthesis between the sixth and seventh trumpets, for in Rev. 8:13 it is introduced that the final three trumpets will be three “woes,” i.e. especially severe judgments upon the God-opposing earth. In Rev. 9:12, after the fifth trumpet (Rev. 9:1-11) has been blown and described, we read, “The first woe has passed; behold two woes are still to come.” This refers to trumpets six and seven. We then read of the sixth trumpet (which is the second woe) in Rev. 9:13-21. However, we do not read of the closing of this second woe and the introduction of the third woe (trumpet seven) until 11:14: “The second woe has passed; behold the third woe is soon to come.” This means that Rev. 10:1-11:13 forms an interlude between the two trumpets (trumpets 6 and 7).
Based upon the material in this interlude, along with the final statement just before the interlude (“The rest of mankind…did not repent of the works of their hands…nor did they repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts,” Rev. 9:20-21), what we find in this interlude is not only one of the reasons why God is bringing judgment upon the unbelieving and rebellious world (because they persecute the church), we also find a call to the church to remain faithful in gospel ministry, even though the strong temptation is to cut corners so we can be accepted by the God-opposing world system around us.
That this interlude also covers this entire age (and is parallel to the seals and trumpets) follows from how the book of Revelation is structured and how it is recapitulating through different views of this current age so we can learn how to live as joyful followers of Christ to God’s glory in the face of hostility. It also follows from the parallel nature of 10:1-11:13 to the first interlude we saw between seals six and seven, that is, Rev. 7:1-17. Since it covered this entire age between the first and second comings of Christ, this interlude most likely does as well. We should also not miss that both interludes show that believers are protected from being destroyed in the ultimate sense (facing God’s judgment and missing eternal reward) in the midst of great hostility.
2. Jesus Christ Comes To John To Recommission Him And The Church To Proclaim The Message Of Judgment And Salvation. 10:1-7
This main message of this paragraph is unfolded in the following ways.
a. Jesus Christ Comes To John In The Form Of The Angel Of The Lord. 1
In this verse we read: “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.” Like the angel in 5:2, this is a “mighty angel” who makes his proclamation “with a loud voice” (v. 3). These are the first of several elements that seem to link Revelation 5 with this interlude. Most likely the connection is that the accomplishing and applying of salvation and judgment we see in that fifth chapter lead to the need for the church to proclaim that dual message and it also is partly what is behind the persecution of the church in Rev. 11.
This angel is most likely similar to the Angel of the Lord in the Old Testament. In other words, the angel is Jesus Christ. The reasons for this understanding are as follows:
· He is envisioned wrapped in a cloud (a vehicle God uses to progress [Ex. 13:21; Dt. 33:26; Ps. 104:3; Is. 19:1] and the same way the Son of Man is seen coming in Daniel and Revelation [Dan. 7:13; Rev. 1:4; 14:14]).
· He has a rainbow over his head (associated with God in Ezekiel 1 and Revelation 4, as well as symbolic of God’s mercy and faithfulness [Gen. 9:12-16]).
· His face is like the sun (this is spoken of Christ in Rev. 1:16).
· His legs are like pillars of fire (which is similar to the way Christ is seen in Rev. 1:15 and it evokes the pillar of fire by which the Lord was present with and led Israel in the wilderness [Ex. 13:20-22; 14:24; Num. 14:14; Neh. 9:12, 19]).
Part of the reason it is significant we understand this is Jesus Christ coming to John is that it displays that not just God the Father, but also God the Son is sovereign over the accomplishing and application of salvation and judgment, and that in the midst of all the hardship the church faces, this glorious, exalted, mighty, merciful, faithful, Savior is with his people in the midst of our wilderness (our hardships and trials).
We must continually remember that the book of Revelation primarily is revealing to us Jesus Christ, how he is with us, empowering us, and is the source of our salvation, hope, happiness, significance, and security (Rev. 1:1-3, 5-7, 12-20; 5:1-14). Greg Beale, in his commentary on Revelation, asks us this pointed question: “Has a shallow reading of Revelation, with a focus on misguided [end-times teaching], drawn us away from its presentation of the exalted Christ? What has drawn us to focus on (often poorly understood) [end-times] timelines and miss the heart of the book, which is the glory of God and of Christ?”
b. Jesus Christ, Sovereign Over All The World, Brings To John And The Church A Reminder To Proclaim The Full Gospel. 2-3
Here is what John writes: “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.”
Because of the parallels with chapter 5, the “little scroll” is parallel with the scroll whose seals Jesus, the Lamb has unsealed. In other words, it has to do with salvation and judgment accomplished and applied in this age. However, it is also somewhat different than that scroll. This one is to be taken and eaten and is both bitter and sweet (Rev. 10:9-10). As we will see shortly, this is the language of the call of prophets in the Old Testament to internalize and then proclaim God’s message. This scroll, then, is not merely the saving and judging events unfolded in this age, but it is a message based on that. That it is a “little scroll” most likely means it is smaller than the previous scroll. It does not equal the decrees of God in regard to the events, but the proclamation to people of what God is doing.
One final description of this little scroll will help see what it is. In Rev. 10:7 it is said of this “mystery of God” that God literally “gospeled [it] to his servants the prophets.” For New Testament believers, calling it a “mystery” and speaking of “gospeling” it, most likely would make them think of the gospel (Mt. 11:5; Lk. 2:10; 4:8; 1 Cor. 1:17; Eph. 3:2-13 [esp. 6, 7, 8]). What Jesus Christ is calling John and the church to do is to proclaim this gospel, which includes both the diagnosis of the problem (sin that brings God’s judgment) and the remedy (trusting in Christ, his life, his substitutionary atoning death, and resurrection for salvation). This gospel proclamation, and all that emerges from it, are also part of the overall sovereign plan of and outworking of the saving work of Christ (See Rev. 5 and the larger “scroll” [5:1]).
The fact that he set his right foot on the sea and his left on the land reveals his authority and jurisdiction over all the world, but especially over the beastly world system and its servants that do Satan’s work and are viewed later as coming out of the sea (Rev. 13:1ff.).
Next, we read that Christ “called out with a loud voice, like a lion roaring.” Though we do not read until 10:8ff. what he calls out, we do know from the wording here that he is announcing God is on the move in a very significant way—to carry out his purposes and plans (see the following Old Testament background to God roaring as a lion: Jer. 25:30; Hos. 11:10; Amos 3:8). Additionally, since we read, “when he called out, the seven thunders sounded,” this reiterates that this message he is calling us to proclaim is one of divine power and judgment. When Scripture uses the word “thunder,” nearly without exception it brings a message of divine power and judgment (e.g. Exodus 19). Also, in Revelation “thunder” repeatedly accompanies divine activity and messages (e.g., 4:5; 6:1; 8:5; 11:19; 16:18).
c. It Is Clarified That Not All That God Is Doing Is Revealed. 4
In verse 4, following the imagery used in Daniel 12, sealing speaks of a hiding or lack of full revelation: “And when the seven thunders had sounded, I was about to write, but I heard a voice from heaven saying, ‘Seal up what the seven thunders have said, and do not write it down.’” This appears to be a symbolic way of reminding us of what we read in Deuteronomy 29:29: “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” In other words, God reveals some things to us—certainly enough so we know how to trust in and follow him. However, he does not unveil all things. In regard to the current recommissioning, the church knows it faces great hostility in the world, that it should continue the gospel ministry of discipling, and is given much in these chapters about its divine resources and how we can trust in Christ to move forward to God’s glory. However, we do not fully comprehend all about why things are happening the way they are.
d. Jesus Christ Clarifies That Now Is The Time For The Unfolding Of God’s Salvation, Judgment, And The Church’s Proclamation Of The Same. 5-7
Here the apostle writes:
And the angel whom I saw standing on the sea and on the land raised his right hand to heaven and swore by him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and what is in it, the earth and what is in it, and the sea and what is in it, that there would be no more delay, but that in the days of the trumpet call to be sounded by the seventh angel, the mystery of God would be fulfilled, just as he announced to his servants the prophets.
What we have here is a direct allusion to Daniel 12:7 where we also find an angelic being standing above waters, raising his hands toward heaven, swearing by the eternal God (to show the importance and the certainty of what he is saying will take place). What he is swearing the truthfulness of is his answer to the question in Dan. 12:6, “How long shall it be till the end of these wonders?” “These wonders” refers back to Dan. 12:1-4, where it is prophesied that at the end of a great time of trouble there will be a great resurrection and God’s people will realize their eternal reward. The answer to Daniel is this: “it would be for a time, times, and half a time….” In other words, it would be for 3.5 years. We discovered when we were in Revelation 7 that this language in Daniel and in Revelation speaks of a time of terrible tribulation and difficulty that brings to the Jewish mind the trouble under Antiochus Epiphanes almost two centuries before the days of Jesus. The fact that Revelation 10:5-7 alludes to Daniel 12:7 (and its context), and includes the words, “that there would be no more delay” (Rev. 10:6) leads us to believe that this time of tribulation has already begun and will be completed at the sounding of the seventh trumpet (which is the final judgment, 11:15-19).
So, Jesus Christ is saying that right now, in this age, now is the time to proclaim the start, continuation, and future culmination of God’s judgment upon sin and sinners, but also that sinners can be forgiven and reconciled to God in Jesus Christ.
As we come to verse 8 and following, we come to the actual commission that Jesus Christ gives to John and the Church.
3. Jesus Christ Commissions John And The Church To Speak The Whole Gospel To All Peoples. 10:8-11
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.” And I took the little scroll from the hand of the angel and ate it. It was sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it my stomach was made bitter. And I was told, “You must again prophesy about many peoples and nations and languages and kings.”
The Old Testament background to this recommissioning of John is Ezekiel 2:8-3:3, where the prophet was given a scroll (2:9) to eat and it was sweet as honey in his mouth (3:3). Written on that scroll for Ezekiel were “lamentations, mourning, and woe” (2:10). Ezekiel is told to go, not to a foreign people, but to Israel, a rebellious people, who, for the most part, will not listen to him.
Background to this text is also found in Jeremiah 15:15-20. There, Jeremiah speaks to the LORD of finding his words and eating them (16a) and he writes (16b-d): “And your word was to me as joy and rejoicing for my heart, for I am called by your name upon me, Yahweh, God of Hosts” (my translation). Clearly, this is a commission given by Yahweh to Jeremiah (15:19-20). It appears that in both cases (Jeremiah and Ezekiel) the word is sweet or a joy because it is from Yahweh and he has placed upon them his divine call, to proclaim his word. Yet, in both cases, the call also involves difficult aspects to the message and outcomes (cf. Jer. 15:17-18).
Here in Revelation 10:11 we find out the proclamation is to be made about “many peoples and nations and languages and kings.” Multiple terms for the different kinds of people throughout the world to give a sense of the entire world or all kinds of people are found in Rev. 5:9 and 7:9 of those people whom Jesus Christ has redeemed. In Rev. 11:9 and 17:15 similar terms are used to speak of the entire world or all kinds of people who remain unrepentant and opposed to God. The background to such language for all kinds of people throughout the world is found in the book of Daniel (3:4, 7; 41; 5:19; 6:25; 7:14) to speak of those who are part of the kingdom of Babylon. Here in Rev. 10:11 the focus is on proclaiming the gospel (including judgment and salvation) to all people throughout the world so that some will be part of the redeemed in heaven praising God and the rest will hear their judgment justly pronounced.
It is also true that since the readers of Revelation (especially the church) are called to hear and keep the words of this prophesy (1:3; 22:7, 9), and we see that the messages are to the church in this inter-advent age, this prophesy going out from John after his recommissioning is also against compromisers within the visible new Israel, who are from all peoples and nations and tongues and tribes.
So, what John sees here in Revelation 10:1-11 is a visual commissioning of the church to preach the gospel to the world so that many can come to true salvation and escape judgment. Throughout the book of Revelation it is emphasized over and over again that at the core of what the church is and what it is supposed to do is the gospel ministry. No where in the New Testament is the church every described positively as merely living for itself and not on mission for the glory of God and the benefit of people.
May we live as faithful physicians of the soul, who live to save the lives of others and deliver both the bad news of diagnosis and the glorious good news that there is a remedy in Christ!
Joyfully Serving As A Faithful Physician Of The Soul With You,
 The pattern of the Ezek. 1-3 vision is followed here in Rev. 10:2, 8-10, where the heavenly being like that in Ezekiel holds a book, and the book is taken and eaten by a prophet. This is another indication that the angel is the angel of the Lord, i.e. Jesus Christ.
 This is also an exact reproduction of the phrase describing Christ’s transfigured appearance in Mt. 17:2.
 Paul even makes the point that God was present with his Old Testament people in the wilderness in the form of Christ (1 Cor. 10:4)!
 Beale, Campbell, Revelation: A Shorter Commentary, 212.
 More specifically, parallels include: (1) Both books/scrolls are opened and held by Christ (who is compared to a lion (cf. 10:3). (2) Both are allusions to the scroll of Ezekiel and are associated with a ‘strong angel’ who cries out and with God who “lives forever and ever.” (3) Both books are directly related to the end-time prophecy of Daniel 12. (4) In both visions someone approaches a heavenly being and takes a book out of the being’s hand. (5) Part of the prophetic commission of John in both visions is stated in near identical language (‘I heard a voice from heaven speaking’: cf. 10:4 and esp. 10:8). (6) Both scrolls concern the destiny of “peoples and nations and tongues and tribes [kings].”
 The verbal parallel between the end of v. 6 (lit. “that there will be any more time/delay”) and 6:11 (lit. “yet a little more time,” which in Greek is much more like the 10:6 clause than we see in English) suggests that the content of the seventh trumpet spoken of here in 10:7 is the final judgment—that brings ultimate salvation and vindication for God’s people (after the number of martyrs has been completed), as well as judgment upon the unregenerate (see also Deut. 32 and Dan. 12 background texts). Also, in part, it shows the judgment comes in response to the prayers of the saints.
 Beale, Campbell, Revelation, 204-5, add: “These words [also]…mirror the prophetic words of God to Moses in Deut. 32:40-43, where God swears that He will judge the ungodly. In Deut. 32:32-35, God’s judgment is described as ‘the wrath of serpents and…of asps,’ and one Aramaic version of Deut. 32:33 (The Palestinian Targum) compares the plans of the wicked to ‘serpents’ heads’ and ‘the heads of asps,’ which was a significant image in the preceding context (Rev. 9:19). And in the same passage (Deut. 32:34-35), God says that his judgments are ‘sealed up’ (cf. v. 4) and will be released in due time, as they were in Israel’s subsequent history.”
They add (205-6): “The identification of this time formula from Daniel is evident in Rev. 12:4-6, where the period begins at the time of Christ’s ascension and is the church’s time of suffering (so also 12:14; see on 12:4-6, 14). In the context of the book, this period must cover the church age and be concluded by Christ’s final coming. Therefore, vv. 6-7 are speaking of the end of this period, which is the end of time or of history. The angel told Daniel that the meaning of the prophecy was sealed up until the end time, when it would be revealed. In contrast to Daniel 12, the angel’s oath in Revelation 10 begins an emphasis on ‘when’ and ‘how’ the prophecy will be completed, which is amplified in ch. 11. When the seventh angel sounds his trumpet, the prophecy of Dan. 11:29-12:13 will be fulfilled and history (Daniel’s ‘end of the age,’ 12:13) will come to an end (i.e. historical ‘time shall be no longer’).”
 Most likely the words for John are sweet, not only because they involved the proclamation of the gospel and its outworking, but also because, even in the words of judgment (and most likely this is why the words are bitter in his stomach) God’s glory is manifested. Additionally, as Beale, Campbell, Revelation, 209, write: “the sweetness of the scroll likely includes reference to God’s redemptive grace in the gospel to those believing, and its bitterness to the fact that this grace must be experienced in the crucible of suffering (cf. 2 Cor. 2:15-16).”
 Beale, Campbell.