Revelation 10 (NRSV)
The Angel with the Little Scroll
And I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven, wrapped in a cloud, with a rainbow over his head; his face was like the sun, and his legs like pillars of fire.
Is it Jesus? Is it the archangel Michael? Is it someone else? Opinions vary.
2 He held a little scroll open in his hand. Setting his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land,
His stance “indicates complete authority over the entire earthly situation.”
–John F. Walvoord
3 he gave a great shout, like a lion roaring. And when he shouted, the seven thunders sounded. 4 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.”
5 Then the angel whom I saw standing on the sea and the land raised his right hand to heaven 6 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: “There will be no more delay, 7 but in the days when the seventh angel is to blow his trumpet, the mystery of God will be fulfilled, as he announced to his servants the prophets.”
In Biblical vocabulary, a mystery isn’t something no one knows. A mystery is something no one could know unless it was revealed to him. If you could know it by intuition or personal investigation, it isn’t a mystery, because mysteries must be revealed. Therefore, something can be known and still be a mystery in the Biblical sense. In this context, the mystery of God probably refers to the unfolding of His resolution of all things, the finishing of His plan of the ages. Life today is full of mysteries, but it will not always be so. A day will come when all questions of this age will be answered.
8 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.” 9 So I went to the angel and told him to give me the little scroll; and he said to me, “Take it, and eat; it will be bitter to your stomach, but sweet as honey in your mouth.” 10 So 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.
Sweet, because it contains God’s words; bitter, because it involves his terrible judgments. (The New Oxford Annotated Bible)
Jeremiah also spoke of eating God’s word: Thy words were found, and I ate them, and thy words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart. But he goes on to say, Thou hast filled me with indignation. Again the sweet and the bitter (Jeremiah 15:16-17).
11 Then they said to me, “You must prophesy again about many peoples and nations and languages and kings.”
The Word of God has already been given to the churches. Now it must go out to the rest of the world.
I love the image John gives us of “the mighty angel” with one foot on land and one on the sea! Such power and authority! Looking at the picture above brought a hymn and a memory to mind. . .
Years ago, when my children were small and we lived in Italy, I played the organ for the English-speaking community’s Anglican church in Naples. How many times I looked over the list of hymns for upcoming Sundays and thought I was familiar with them, only to find, at practice, that the tunes were utterly unknown to me. HERE is such an example — “Jesus Shall Reign” — and even after listening to umpteen verses I am still having trouble getting the rhythm right! But the text is by Isaac Watts, so I can certainly enjoy that!