Our journey through Revelation in this is the 15th post brings us to chapter 10. A recording of this will be available on the Shofar Durbanville Youtube channel.
Let’s first catch up where we are in our journey through this apocalypse. In that glorious scene of God’s throne room (ch 4) the Lamb received the Scroll containing God’s redemptive plans to renew all of fallen creation (Ch 5). As the Lamb started opening the seven seals of the scroll, terrible judgments was released on earth (ch 6). These judgments were paused to mark God’s servants with a seal of protection from the final judgment (ch 7). With the opening of the 7th seal, heaven became quite as God focused his attention on the prayers of his saints, which was mixed with the fire from his altar and poured out as six more severe judgments on the earth (ch 8-9).
In chapter 10, the scene continues but the judgments are interrupted again (as in chapter 7), but this time the focus is on John, who is invited to move from spectator of the vision to participator in Christ’s Revelation.
In John’s vision, a mighty angel comes down from heaven, standing with one foot on the earth and one on the seas (sovereign over land and sea, refer 8:7-8). He was clothed in white, his face shone as the sun, and he had a rainbow around his head, his feet were like fire, and his voice like a lion. John describes the Angel as Jesus himself (compare 10:1-3 with 1:15-18; 4:3).
The Angel had a little scroll in his right hand (compare 10:2 with 5:7), and when he spoke there were seven thunders. But when John wanted to record these seven thunders, like the previous seven seals and seven trumpets, the Angel prevented him and then raised his hand and vowed to God “that there should be delay no longer” (10:6). This scene is a powerful allusion to Daniel 12 – a vision about the end, where the wicked will grow more wicked and the righteous will grow more righteous.
John was commanded to take this scroll, and to eat it as the prophet Ezekiel was commanded, meaning “all My words that I shall speak to you receive in your heart, and hear with your ears.” (Ezekiel 2:10-3:2, 10). As John ate, it tasted “sweet as honey” but his “stomach became bitter” (10:9-10; compare Jeremiah 15:16 and Ezekiel 3:3). Then John is sent to “prophesy about many peoples and nations and languages and kings” in the likeness of the commission given to God’s prophets and apostles (compare 10:11 with Isaiah 6; Jeremiah 1; Ezekiel 3; Acts 1:8; 9:15).
From spectator to participator. This pause after the six trumpet judgments, which still left the nations unrepentant of their wickedness and rebellion (9:20-21), shows the mystery of God’s redemptive plan. Here we see John was invited to not only discern and understand God’s work of redemptive acts, but to become a participant in his plan. The scroll – whom no one was worthy to receive and open – was now handed tot John. The scroll which unleashed God’s redemption of creation through terrible judgments, was given for John to take and digest. John, as with everyone who reads his words and “beholds” this Revelation, is invited to embody God’s plan – the renewal of all things.
This is a powerful allusion to the ministry of the prophets and Jesus. Just like the prophets in the Old Testament pointed out God’s divine judgments on Israel and the surrounding nations, yet they repented not, so the seals and trumpets did not inspire true, lasting repentance (9:20-21). Until Jesus, the Word of God who became flesh (John 1:1, 14) became a living witness of God’s restoring reign, because in his life God’s “grace and truth” was seen (John 1:17), and through his blood creation was redeemed (Ephesians 1:7). This allusion is John’s invitation – and the invitation to the church – to become a living witness of the redemptive reign of God.
Christ’s invitation to John to “take and eat” (Matthew 26:26), is a reminder of the sacrament of communion – an invitation to share in Jesus’ broken body. This is what John meant when he said the words of the Gospel of God’s reign is sweet, but the embodied witness thereof is bitter. Words alone won’t work – we are invited to suffer with him, that we may “present the Word of God to the fullest” (Colossians 1:25; compare 2 Timothy 2:12, Philippians 1:28-29).
This vision of two suffering witnesses is what John sees next (Revelation 11).
Bringing it home
What do we do with this interlude (ch 10)? I believe the invitation to John is the invitation to everyone who reads these words. We are invited to move from seeing and understanding God’s redemptive purposes on earth, to participate with it. But in doing this, we must keep the image of Christ in this chapter before us.
Our witness of Christ and his reign is grounded in the security of Jesus’ sovereignty over all creation (“sea and land”, “all thrones and dominions”, Colossians 1:15-18). While the nations reel under the judgments, we rest securely in the perspective of John in God’s throne room which brought him peace (ch 4). Our witness and patient endurance is grounded in this peace that God is in control.
Secondly, we must know that some things will remain a mystery to us – like the seven thunders that are concealed in this chapter. We will never understand everything that goes on, as “the secret things belong to the Lord our God” (Deuteronomy 29:29). This keeps our witness humble, dependent on the Great Shepherd’s guidance in all things.
Thirdly, our invitation is to move God’s scroll from our head to our heart, to eat it and digest it, for “the Word to become flesh” (John 1:14). For so many people in our day the Word of God, and Revelation in particular, is a means to read and understand and even predict the events in our world as they passively wait on his return. John’s invitation to “take and eat” urges the church to move from being onlookers to coworkers in his unrolling of God’s redemptive plan in creation – even when it hurts. Engage the bitter claims of God’s Word that we may “present the Word of God to the fullest” (Colossians 1:25) – even through the hardships. After all – nothing will change until “the word becomes flesh” so that the world may behold the glory of the Son of God in our witness (John 1:14; Acts 6:15).