Rev. 10

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. 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.” 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.

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.” 10 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. 11 And I was told, “You must again prophesy about many peoples and nations and languages and kings.”[1]

In chapter 9 we heard the blasts of the 5th and 6th trumpets blow and saw a very detailed picture of how God unleashes demonic forces upon the earth as judgment upon the idol-worshippers. With the blast of the 5th trumpet, demons are sent to torture individuals in seductive ways that ultimately leave their victims ruined and longing for death. The 6th trumpet unleashes demonic angels that drive political and military conflicts resulting in ecological, social and physical destruction and death. As horrible as these demonic forces of fallen angels are, John writes it is God who unleashes them, controls them, and limits their destructive powers.

Even though Christians are sealed with eternal unconditional citizenship in heaven we are not immune to demonic influence, even physical destruction, when we give ourselves over to the pursuit of our own dreams of personal happiness (Col. 3:5). We saw that behind every one of our idols – those circumstances and people and things we covet to provide personal happiness and control our lives – lurk forces from the demonic realm. The sacramental meal of forbidden fruit Adam and Eve at with the devil in Genesis 3 was our parents’ first act of worshipping the idol of self-fulfillment, self-control, and self-generated happiness. It was actually worship of the demonic realm. Behind all our idols lurk demons bent on our destruction whispering sweet words to our rebellious flesh:

You deserve better. Make your own choices. Pursue your own happiness. Seek your own bliss. Follow your heart. Find your own truth within. You need to take care of you. Take control of your circumstances. Solve your own problems your own way. Your chief goal is making your dreams come true.

When earth-dwellers give themselves over to their idols it is God’s judgment on them (Rom. 1:18-32). When those sealed into Christ give themselves over to their idols it is God letting them experience the emptiness of sin not only for their own training but as a warning to the congregation. When we worship ourselves, our wants, our demands, our own kingdoms of self and our pursuit of personal happiness apart from Christ, WE ARE WORSHIPPING IN THE DEMONIC REALM. We covet. Coveting is idolatry. Idolatry is the worship of demons. That which we worship is that with which we fellowship. When you strive to be the master of your fate and the captain of your soul, you fellowship with creatures bent on destroying every aspect and area of your life.

Believers who refuse to repent can find themselves given over to the devil. The men with care over persistently-rebellious souls have the authority to remove God’s physical protection for the destruction of their people’s earthly lives and the protection of their eternal souls (1 Cor. 5:4-5). If that sounds frightening, it is supposed to sound exactly that way! Those who overcome the world, the flesh and the devil do so by worshipping God during their suffering rather than worshipping their demonic idols of personal comfort and self-defined happiness.

How do we beat back the demonic realm? How do we “just say ‘No’” to idolatry? We starve our flesh, our Old Adam, by feasting on Christ and his benefits. Every Lord’s Day brings a new feast and a free exorcism as we contemplate Jesus, the mighty Angel of the Lord, and the words of judgment and blessing in his “little scroll.” That is the purpose of Revelation 10. It’s a break in the action from the seven trumpet blasts of judgment, just like the intermission between the 6th and 7th seals and the one to follow between the 6th and 7th bowls. This intermission directs us to Christ, his Word, and our earthly mission by focusing on the mighty angel and a little scroll


John begins in verse 1, “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.[2] John recorded seeing a “mighty” or “strong” (same word) angel in 5:2 and will see another in 18:21. But there is something different about this angel. G.K. Beale writes, “If he is an angel, he is an extraordinary one, since he is described in a majestic way, unlike any other angel in the book. He is given attributes that are given only to God in the OT or to God or Christ in Revelation. Therefore this heavenly being is either the divine Christ himself or the divine angel of Yahweh.”[3]

This angel comes down from heaven wrapped in a cloud (the Shekinah glory of God) something said of Christ himself in 1:7 (see also: Dan. 7:13: Matt. 24:30; 26:64; Mark 13:26; Luke 21:27; Acts 1:9; Rev. 1:7; 14:14–16). John sees a rainbow over his head, an allusion to Ezekiel 1:26-28 and Rev. 4:3 where God is pictured with the rainbow as a symbol of his covenant faithfulness to his promises of judgment and blessing. Ezekiel, in his vision, was also told to eat a scroll as part of his prophetic call like John will be (10:9). The final two phrases of 10:1 confirm at least the Christlikeness of the angel. “His face as the sun” recalls the almost identical phrase describing Christ in 1:16, “his appearance as the sun” and exactly reproduces the phrase describing Christ’s transfigured appearance in Matt. 17:2. The final description in 10:1 harks back to 1:15, which portrays “his [Christ’s] feet like bronze refined as in a furnace.” There is an intentional link between the description of Christ in Rev. 1 and the description of the angel in 10:1.[4]

Jesus is nowhere else in Revelation referred to as an angel. So, why the angelic association here? The answer is John paints with the colors of the Old Testament. He is linking Jesus to the OT appearances of the Angel of YHWH who is often referred to as God himself (e.g., Gen. 16:10; 22:11–18; 24:7; 31:11–13; Exod. 3:2–12; 14:19; Judg. 2:1; 6:22; 13:20–22; cf. Zech. 3:1–3 with Jude 9; see also Dan. 3:25; Acts 7:30, 35, 38).[5] Also, the descriptions in Rev. 10 (and Rev. 1) are closely linked with those of the heavenly being with “the likeness of a son of man” in Daniel 10-12. Put all the colors together and we find John emphasizing Jesus as the Christ of all the covenants, the divine, sovereign protector of God’s people and judge of all.

That helps us understand why this mighty angel stands with a foot planted on the land and a foot in the sea. This is one giant angel. But his size is not the so much issue; the picture symbolizes the Angel of the Lord’s control over the entire earth. It’s picture language for what Jesus told his disciples immediately before his ascension into heaven following his crucifixion and resurrection. He said in Matt. 28:8, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.[6] Here Christ is clothed in heavenly glory, standing upon the whole earth with all sovereign authority over every earthly and spiritual creature.

Do you remember Jesus was tempted in the wilderness during his earthly ministry? The devil – the god of this age (2 Cor. 4:4), the prince of the power of the air (Eph. 2:2) and ruler of this world (Jn. 12:31) – offered Jesus the whole world in exchange for the kind of worship earth-dwellers give Satan as they pursue their idolatry. Why would Satan’s offer have been a temptation for Jesus who now stands upon land and sea as the King of Kings? Because in order to destroy the works of the devil (1 Jn. 3:8) Jesus had to set his face toward Jerusalem and suffer for the sins of his people on Calvary’s cross. To be the true conqueror, the Overcomer, Jesus had to worship through suffering, rejection, death, and even separation from the Father. Before the crown came the cross.[7]

The glory and power of the Angel of the Lord cost him everything at Calvary; but it also earned him absolutely everything so that every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess before him (Isa. 42:23; Rom. 14:11). Christ is large and in charge. The Lion-Lamb shouts like a lion roaring (10:3). But the cross comes before the crown. That is the ongoing message of this letter to small groups of pilgrim believers passing through a hostile world that lies in the arms of the evil one and his demon army. They overcome by worshipping God in Christ Jesus in the midst of their suffering because of the joy set before them.

As we worship the Angel of the Lord, the Lion-Lamb, the Lord Jesus Christ, we participate in his in-breaking kingdom. We bear witness to his saving work among the earth-dwellers, so pre-believers can be raised to newness of life in a new creation. We don’t raise the dead; God in Christ Jesus through the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit raises the dead. We see something of that power as the Lion-Lamb roars (Amos 3:7) in verse 3 and seven thunders answer. The lion’s roar lion and thunder are both symbols of divine judgment. John hears this seven-fold (complete) plan of God for judgment, but he’s commanded not to pass it on in his letter.

What did the thunders say? We don’t know. The most likely explanation (to me, anyway) is that “despite God’s disclosures throughout the Apocalypse, the totality of his plans will still remain hidden from humanity until the end of history.”[8] That seems to fit with chapter 5 where Jesus opens the 7-times-sealed scroll representing God’s complete plan of judgment and salvation, but John never gets to read the scroll. He only sees the effect of the seals being broken. Here in chapter 10, John is offered a “little scroll” to symbolize we cannot know everything God knows written in the “big book.” We will never know his decree in its entirety because we are mere creatures and he is The Creator. So, we know only the “little book;” we know only what he wants us to know for our joy and his glory.

Do you realize you could become the greatest Bible scholar the world has ever known, you could master every course, every practical program, every and every biblical method to be a better you BUT you cannot know everything God knows? You can only know his “little scroll.” The message of the seven thunders is not for you to know because God is God and you are not. God decides in his time for his people in his way according to his purposes and he does not take counsel from us. What we DO know from our “little scroll” is that God’s patience with the ungodly earth-dwellers has definite limits. He must and shall force them to drink the bitter, foaming cup of the wine of the wrath of God. AND he must and shall pour out his tender care upon those whom he has sealed with Christ’s blood.

In verses 6 and 7, the Angel of the Lord swears (Dan. 12:7; Deut. 32:40)[9] there will be no more delay when the 7th trumpet sounds but that, “the mystery of God would be fulfilled, just as he announced to his servants the prophets.[10] That phrase the mystery of God has a gospel flavor in the NT, particularly in Pauline writings (Rom. 16:25-26). It refers to things previously unknown but now revealed in Christ. How the Seed of the Woman would crush the serpent’s head was a mystery. Who the Messiah-Seed would be was a mystery. When Messiah would come was a mystery. When he shall return to consummate all things is a mystery.

Here Christ as the Angel of God promises the final judgment (7th seal, 7th trumpet, 7th bowl) will put an end to all further mystery (including what the thunders said). Then, all God’s people will see him face to face and be like him for all eternity – what Paul calls the eternal weight of glory (2 Cor. 4:17). How God is defeating the world, the flesh, and devil even as they appear to triumph over the Church is a mystery finally revealed in the final great outpouring of his wrath. In the midst of their defeat, God’s people are already beginning to win (overcome). It is the mystery of the upside-down Kingdom of Christ. Defeat at the hand of the City of Man IS overcoming in the City of God.


John’s attention is drawn from the Angel of the Lord to the little scroll the angel holds. 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.[11]

This is the third repetition that Christ is standing on both land and sea. It emphasizes Christ’s authority over absolutely everything, a fact clearly connected to the little scroll which John is commanded to take and eat. I suspect John understood exactly what this image meant and what the consequences of eating would be. The colors of this vision come from Ezekiel 2-3 where the prophet is commanded to consume God’s words of law and judgment. They are sweet to him (Ezek. 3:3); but God’s Spirit fills him with a heavy sense of bitterness (Ezek. 3:14) over the judgment to come upon Israel for living like the earth-dwellers and worshipping the idols of their own personal happiness.

You often hear people speak of their longing for revival in their city, their country, their church, the whole Church. But often they don’t really know for what they are asking. Real biblical revival ALWAYS begins with a sense of the bitterness of our own sin. God’s Word is sweet until the Spirit begins to digest it in us. Revival begins with a true sense of how utterly horrible your own rebellion against God and his Word is. Revival in your life, the life of your family, the life of your congregation will NEVER come until you begin to taste the bitterness of the idolatry of your own ideas of happiness. Until sin be bitter, Christ will not be sweet (Thomas Watson). As long as you are at peace with your sin, you are at war with Christ.

But when the bitterness churns in your gut, then repentance can flow. And when repentance flows, relative morality (I’m better than that sinner over there) dies. And when relative morality dies, grace begins to reign. And when grace begins to reign you begin to long for that eternal weight of glory with which our light momentary afflictions cannot begin to compare (2 Cor. 4:17). And when you begin to long for glory, you want to proclaim Christ’s liberating power over the devil, his demons, the idols they offer, and the judgment they and the earth-dwellers must and shall face. And when you taste that liberation, you will begin to want others to taste its sweetness. THAT is true revival born from tasting the bitterness of sin. Until sin be bitter, Christ will not be sweet.

In God’s upside-down Kingdom, what tastes sweet turns bitter. But what becomes bitter becomes a means for sweetness as John proclaims the judgment and blessing of God to those with ears to hear. “11 And I was told, ‘You must again prophesy about many peoples and nations and languages and kings.’[12] But for those who refuse to repent and turn from the pursuit of self-generated happiness, there is only the bitterness of a judgment so terrifying and awesome that heaven stands silent in its wake.

When Ezekiel was given this scroll to eat, God said to him:

And he said to me, “Son of man, go to the house of Israel and speak with my words to them. For you are not sent to a people of foreign speech and a hard language, but to the house of Israel— not to many peoples of foreign speech and a hard language, whose words you cannot understand. Surely, if I sent you to such, they would listen to you. But the house of Israel will not be willing to listen to you, for they are not willing to listen to me: because all the house of Israel have a hard forehead and a stubborn heart.[13]

It was not to the earth-dwellers Ezekiel was sent, but to God’s own rebellious people who had given themselves over to following their own wants, their own dreams, their own self-generated “happiness.” God said even the pagans had a better chance of hearing Ezekiel and repenting than did the Israelites. Where is YOUR heart this morning? What or whom are you seeking to make you feel fulfilled? To whose voices are you listening? Who or what influences your thinking this morning?

Until sin be bitter, Christ will not be sweet.

17 The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. [14]


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2016), Re 10:1–11.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2016), Re 10:1.

[3] Beale, 522.

[4] Id., 524.

[5] Id., 523.

[6] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2016), Mt 28:18.

[7] Sinclair Ferguson, The Little Scroll (Revelation 10). Accessed4/4/18 at:

[8] Beale, 534.

[9] Examples of God swearing oaths: Gen. 22:16; Exod. 32:13; Isa. 45:23; Jer. 49:13; Ezek. 20:5; Amos 6:8; Heb. 6:13.

[10] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2016), Re 10:7.

[11] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2016), Re 10:8–9.

[12] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2016), Re 10:11.

[13] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2016), Eze 3:4–7.

[14] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2016), Re 22:17.