Read Revelation 10, I would like to give you the background to what we find in this chapter so you can see the chapter in its context. Without knowing the context, this chapter would not be understood. At the very beginning in chapter 1, we see Jesus walking among His churches. In chapters 2 and 3, we see the churches experiencing hardship and difficulties and probably wondering why it must be so. “Is God really on our side? Is He really there to help us?” In chapter 4, we see a door opened in heaven. There we see the throne of God and we see that God is really in charge of His universe. In chapter 5, we see Jesus, the Lamb slain, coming to the throne of God and joining the Father. We see glory and honor ascribed to the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world. We see a book that was sealed, and only the Lamb was worthy to open the seals.
In chapter 6, as He opens the seals one by one we see the future opened up. We see what is to happen between the time when Jesus came to the time when He will come again. When the first seal is opened, we see Jesus going forth to conquer. When the second seal is opened we see the persecution that follows in the wake of the proclamation of the gospel of Christ and how God's people suffer. As other seals are opened we see them suffer from economic hardship caused by injustice and from the natural calamities that occur in our world. But we see that those who die and are faithful even until death are found in the very presence of God. God protects them. And finally we see the destruction of the wicked.
In chapter 7, we see that the righteous have been saved. And then we come to a series of trumpets that are blown by seven angels. These are revealed to us as the seventh seal is opened. These represent the warning judgments of God that come on the wicked in the world in response to the prayers of the righteous that go up before the throne of God.
In Revelation, chapters 8 and 9, as we see six trumpets sound in response to the prayers of the saints of God, we see God bringing judgment upon rebellious humanity. Yet, in 9:20–21, we see that after all these warnings and judgments inflicted on those who oppose God's people, “... the rest of mankind, who
were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, that they should not worship demons, and idols of gold, silver, brass, stone, and wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk; and they did not repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts.”
All through this period, from chapter 8 and 9, we have been looking at the judgments of the unrighteous and the ungodly in our world. From chapter 10:1 through chapter 11:13, we see a pause in the story of Revelation as John is shown a vision of that which is going to happen for the benefit of God's own people. We have seen the judgment of God being poured out on the wicked in chapters 8 and 9. Now, before we hear the last trumpet blown, God wants us to see that we are going to be preserved and that we will be finally presented before the throne of God and we will be ultimately victorious.
We are ready to look at chapter 10:1–3: “And I saw still another mighty angel coming down from heaven, clothed with a cloud. And a rainbow was on his head, his face was like the sun, and his feet like pillars of fire. He had a little book open in his hand. And he set his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land, and cried with a loud voice, as when a lion roars. And when he cried out, seven thunders uttered their voices.” It is an awesome spectacle that John beholds as he sees this gigantic angel who plants one foot on the earth and one on the sea and roars with a great voice. And we wonder, “What is this angel doing here anyway? What is his purpose and how does he fit into the picture of what we have seen in Revelation?”
Some have misunderstood the angel as being Jesus Christ Himself. Jesus Christ in scripture is never spoken of as an angel. In fact, in the book of Hebrews, in chapter one, Jesus is placed in direct contrast to the angels. He is not an angel. He is the Son of God. He is superior to the angel according to Hebrews I. So we are not seeing Jesus in Revelation 10:1–3. We are seeing an angel who comes from the throne of God. It is true that the symbolism that surrounds this angel, his being arrayed with a cloud, a rainbow around his head, his face as the sun and his feet as a pillar of fire, are symbols. They are associated with the throne of God and Jesus Christ as we have seen in Revelation 1 and 4. But the point is, we are being shown that this angel is not an evil angel, but an angel who
comes from the throne of God Himself. He is surrounded by the symbols associated with the Father and the Son. And so the angel is representing Jesus Christ, and he plants one foot on the earth and one on the sea and he begins to roar like a lion. And when he cries the seven thunders utter their voices.
There is a fascinating passage in Psalm 29, which reminds us of what we find in the seven thunders uttering their voices. I do not believe that the seven thunders that utter their voices in Revelation 10 are saying the things that are found in Psalm 29. Yet you find the voice of the Lord spoken of seven times. And the God of glory thunders. I believe that as we read Psalm 29, we can get something of the feel for what must be taking place.
At this point read Psalm 29: “Give unto the Lord, O you mighty ones, give unto the Lord glory and strength. Give unto the Lord the glory due to His name; worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness. The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders; the Lord is over many waters. The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is full of majesty. The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars, yes, the Lord splinters the cedars of Lebanon. He makes them also skip like a calf, Lebanon and Sirion like a young wild ox. The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness; the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh. The voice of the Lord makes the deer give birth, and strips the forests bare; and in His temple everyone says ‘Glory!’ The Lord sat enthroned at the Flood, and the Lord sits as King forever. The Lord will give strength to His people; the Lord will bless His people with peace.”
I believe God may have intended that there be a recollection of this Psalm with the voice of the Lord thundering seven times in judgment because it fits so appropriately. Immediately after we hear the God of glory thundering in Psalm 29, there is that final statement: “The Lord will give strength to His people, the Lord will bless His people with peace.”
What we have seen in Revelation 8 and 9 are the judgments of God against nations. And in the midst of all this one might wonder what is happening to the people of God? What is their destiny? What is their fate in the midst of all that is happening? What we are seeing is that while the God of glory thunders, it
is for the preservation and protection of God's people, for He will bless His people with peace. And it is saying that even in the midst of the world where the judgments of God are continually poured out on the wicked, God's people are able to experience peace in their hearts. They will find strength to bear up under the burdens that may come on them as well. We are hearing the glory of God thundering through the means of an angel.
Elsewhere in the Old Testament we have the suggestion that the roaring of the voice of God is really something that is associated with peace for the people of God. Look at Hosea 11:10–11: “ ‘They shall walk after the Lord. He will roar like a lion. When he roars, then His sons shall come trembling from the west; they come trembling like a bird from Egypt, like a dove from the land of Assyria. And I will let them dwell in their houses,’ says the Lord.” In other words, here is a roaring of the Lord for the purpose of the preservation of His people whom He will preserve in their houses.
Then we turn to the next prophecy of the Old Testament. Joel 3:16 says, “The Lord also will roar from Zion, and utter His voice from Jerusalem. The heavens and earth will shake; but the Lord will be a shelter for His people, and the strength of the children of Israel.” The roaring of the Lord may be terrifying to the hearts of the ungodly, but to the people of God it is reassuring that He is the awesome Ruler of our universe, and that the power that men possess in our world is nothing compared to the power of God. So as we see the angel of God who plants a foot on the sea and plants a foot on the land and towers above the earth, we realize we need not fear what is happening to men on the earth because God is going to protect His people.
We continue in Revelation 10:4: “Now when the seven thunders uttered their voices, I was about to write, but I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, ‘Seal up the things which the seven thunders uttered, and do not write them.’ ” John had seen revelations, and as he was seeing them he was writing down the things that he saw. Now he hears the seven thunders utter their voices and he is about to write down what they say when a voice says, “Do not write. Seal these things up.” And you say, “What is the significance of that?” I believe that significance is that God is saying to us, “Look, I am not revealing
everything to you of my purposes and how I am going to deal with the world. There are some things that still cannot be revealed that you cannot bear, that you cannot understand.”
This reminds me of the passage in Deuteronomy 29:29 which says, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”
In our time we hear preachers on the radio trying to speak to the American people about the book of Revelation. It distresses me that so often they pick details out of the context and say that they refer to what is happening in some nation, or some other place. They really have no idea what they are talking about. They are trying to see and hear things that God never intended to reveal in the first place. They are trying to draw back the veil on the future and see things about which God is not intending to speak.
As we study Revelation we must allow the Bible to interpret itself. We must not try to read into these symbols and these passages our own wishes and desires of how we think things ought to be or may be in the future. There are some things that belong to God and God simply has not chosen to reveal to us everything we would like to know about what is going to happen. We must content ourselves with the things that have been revealed.
So often people spend their lives caught up in speculations about the future and trying to see things that God never wanted to reveal rather than devoting their lives to faithful obedience to the things that God has clearly revealed that we must do.
God has shown us so clearly in the scripture how we ought to live our lives. He has shown us how we ought to treat each other. He shows us what He expects us to do with reference to the poor, with those who are in need. He shows us the way we should treat our husbands and wives and children and how we should treat the people where we work. The Bible is clear about the way we are to live our lives and how we are to be pleasing to God. Yet so many overlook the obvious things just as the hypocrites in Jesus' day overlooked the more important things, being obsessed with their irrelevant traditions.
It is amazing how many commentators try their best to suggest what is being said when the seven thunders uttered their voices when the voice from heaven told John to seal it up—that this is not for the world to know. I believe we are being told that God has purposes, plans and capacities that are beyond our capacity to understand. What He has chosen to reveal to us is sufficient enough that we can take courage because that is the reason Revelation was written. It was written to provide comfort and assurance to the people of God, that they might realize that God is in charge and His people are going to be victorious.
What John is saying to us in chapter 10 is: “Do not worry about the awesome calamities that befall our world. Do not worry about the wars and the chaos and the confusion of our times. Just realize and remember that you, as God's people, are going to be preserved and you will be protected and you will be brought ultimately into the very presence of God if you continue faithfully even until death.”
Read Revelation 10:5–6: “And the angel whom I saw standing on the sea and on the land lifted up his hand to heaven and swore by Him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and the things that are in it, the earth and the the things that are in it, and the sea and the things that are in it, that there should be delay no longer.” God is going to act suddenly and quickly and there will be no more delays.
In other words, when God in His good time decides to act, then He is going to act. He is going to act suddenly and quickly and it is going to be all over. But what we have seen is God's patience continually extended. We have seen God, time and again, sending His angels to the earth to try to warn the hardening hearts of men of the fact that one day they are going to stand in the presence of God. Yet we are told they repented not of their works and again, “they repented not,” but finally the time is going to come when God says, “No more. There shall be delays no longer.”
Then the seventh angel will sound the trumpet, Jesus will come again, and then we shall all finally stand before the throne of God in judgment and be told our final destiny. But there will come a time when the patience of God is going to end, when there will be no delay and He will come.
Notice verses 6 and 7: “... that there should be delay no longer, but in the days of the sounding of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, the mystery of God would be finished as He declared to His servants the prophets.” That time when the seventh angel sounds will be a time of good news for the people of God. It is a tragedy that so many Christians find a bit of terror in the thought that Jesus is coming again. Yet as we come to the very end of Revelation there is a great anticipation of the time.
“Come, Lord Jesus” is the final prayer of the Bible. What a great day it is going to be when the Lord will return and take His people into eternal bliss! What are those strange attractions of this world that make us want to live here longer anyway? Are they not the deceitful delusions of Satan? Surely we ought to look forward with anticipation to that time when the seventh angel sounds, when the delay of God's bringing the end of this world shall finally cease and when God shall bring salvation to all who are faithful to Christ.
We continue at Revelation 10:8–10: “Then the voice which I heard from heaven spoke to me again and said, ‘Go, take the little book which is open in the hand of the angel who stands on the sea and on the earth.’ And I went to the angel and said to him, ‘Give me the little book.’ And he said to me, ‘Take and eat it; and it will make your stomach bitter, but it will be as sweet as honey in your mouth.’ And I took the little book out of the angel's hand and ate it, and it was as sweet as honey in my mouth. But when I had eaten it, my stomach became bitter.”
In the Old Testament there is in the prophecy of Ezekiel a parallel to what we have seen here. The same kind of thing happened in the experience of Ezekiel, and we turn to Ezekiel 2:9 and read through Ezekiel 3:3: “Now when I looked there was a hand stretched out to me; and behold, a scroll of a book was in it. Then He spread it before me; and there was writing on the inside and on the outside, and written on it were lamentations and mourning and woe. Moreover He said to me, ‘Son of man, eat what you find; eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel.’ So I opened my mouth and He caused me to eat that scroll. And he said to me, ‘Son of man, feed your belly, and fill your stomach with this scroll that I give you.’ So
I ate, and it was in my mouth like honey in sweetness.” And now notice verse 14: “So the Spirit lifted me up and took me away, and I went in bitterness, in the heat of my spirit, but the hand of the Lord was strong upon me.” I believe what happened to Ezekiel helps us understand a little better what is happening here in Revelation. Ezekiel, in the vision, was given a book to eat and it was sweet in his mouth and later he goes forth in bitterness.
What is this all about? Let us look at Psalm 119:103: “How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” Now look at Jeremiah 15:16-18: “Your words were found and I ate them, and Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart; for I am called by Your name, O Lord God of hosts. I did not sit in the assembly of the mockers, nor did I rejoice; I sat alone because of Your hand, for You have filled me with indignation. Why is my pain perpetual and my wound incurable, which refuses to be healed? Will You surely be to me like an unreliable stream, as waters that fail?”
The experience of receiving the word of God and, of course, the idea of eating the book is the idea of absorbing the word of God, taking it in to your very heart and letting it lodge there and become a part of you. And John does this and the reaction is that is was sweet as he took it because the word of God is precious and it is sweeter than honey. But following that there came a certain bitterness, which may be explained in one of two ways. One is that the message of God cuts two ways. The sweet message of God is good news to the righteous but it is a terrifying and bitter message to those who are disobedient and who would reject the word of God. So the message of God that was presented to John in the little book was both sweet and bitter.
I believe the second, and more likely possibility is that when ever the sweet word of God is proclaimed, God's people in turn experience the bitter reaction of the wicked and impenitent to the presentation of that word. At least that is what we see in the very next chapter of Revelation when the word of God is proclaimed, the messengers of the word of God are slain. That is the thing that we saw back in Revelation 6 as well. When the word of God went forth, the next thing that we saw was the persecution of the people of God. So the gospel is a message
which brings to its messengers sweetness as well as the bitterness of the persecution which comes. But for those who faithfully proclaim the message of God there is that unspeakable joy and that final exultation which comes when we hear at the end of it all, “Well done, good and faithful servant: ... Enter into the joy of your lord” (Matthew 25:21). And that is what God's people look forward to, the final recompense of reward which comes to those who are righteous and who live faithfully for God even until death.
After John had received the little book, which apparently has something to do with the message of God, pertaining to God's people in the midst of all of what has been said about the fate of the wicked, we see this final statement in Revelation 10:11. “And he said to me, ‘You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, tongues and kings.’ ”
When the revelation of God has come to His servants, the servants of God are always ordered to take that message and proclaim it. And John, in the remaining portion of the book of Revelation, is doing that very thing. He is giving His prophecy concerning many peoples and nations and tongues and kings. And as we continue through the book of Revelation, we are going to see more of what God has said through John, His servant, pertaining to the destiny of nations and peoples and tongues and kings.
In the next message, in Revelation 11, we are going to see one of the most joyous and terrifying visions that is yet to be found. What we have seen is God trying to pause for a moment to say, “I am going to preserve my people. I have warned the wicked to turn from their ways, but they repented not. I have brought calamities upon the wicked but as far as my own people are concerned, I am going to turn the calamities and the judgments to the glorifying of my own people and to the preservation of my own people and to their ultimate salvation”
We need to realize that God's patience does ultimately wear thin, that there is going to come that occasion, and we do not know when it will be, when God will say that time shall be no more. There shall be delay no longer when the seventh angel sounds the trumpet. The earth will be destroyed and Jesus will come again to bring His people to the very throne of God. Do
you want to be among that number? Do you want to live your life in such a way that you have no fear of that impending judgment, but rather can look forward with anticipation to the coming of Jesus Christ and be able to express fervently from your heart the prayer, “Come, Lord Jesus?”
If you have not been living faithfully for Christ, will you not open the door of your heart and let Him back in your life? And if you have never given your life to Jesus, why not believe on Him, repent of your sins, confess your faith in Christ and be baptized in Him that you can have your sins washed away and have the assurance that you are now God's child, having been born of the water and spirit?
You then can finally breathe a sign of relief knowing that Jesus has borne your sins and your iniquities and that He is now confessing your name before the Father so that when He comes again He can introduce you to the Father and say, “This is my child. I want You to receive him to be with Us forever.” What a great day that will be!