Revelation 10 Commentary

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“The main point of this introduction is the recommissioning of the seer for the prophetic task that he has already undertaken. His task is twofold. He is to prophesy about the persevering witness of Christians, which brings them suffering and about the lot of those who react antagonistically to their witness.” [1]

vv.1-2 “The descants from heaven to earth continue.  A mighty angel, ‘wrapped in a cloud, with a rainbow over his head,’ straddles sea and land (cf. 10:5; see also 7:2, 12, 18; 14:7).  The physical destruction described in the preceding chapter is replaced by a different kind of devastation, that of the prophetic word.  The ‘mighty angel’ echoes the stronger one who is greater than John the Baptist (Mark 1:7) and who plunders the strong man’s kingdom (Mark 3:27).”[2]

v. 4 “The thunders reveal that some matters are not yet ours to know (10:4).  The hidden things belong to God alone (Duet. 29:29); until Jesus returns, we know in part only (1 Cor. 13:9).  This does not mean that we should not seek knowledge (Prov. 18:15; 23:12; 25:2); it does mean that God has set boundaries (Rom. 16:19).   In other words, we should avoid undue speculation about matters on which we cannot be certain and should avoid speaking dogmatically about them.  (1 Tim. 1:4; 2 Tim. 2:23).  God rules the future, but we do not need to know the details.  He has not guaranteed us such knowledge, especially about the final details before the ‘delay’ is over.  The seven thunders may constitute one of the most important words to prophecy teachers in the entire book.”[3]

vv. 5-6 “This Deuteronomy background is a further indication that the seven thunders in Rev.10:4-5 are another series of seven judgments, whose contents are not revealed but whose execution is ever imminent and have even begun, the inauguration and imminence of part of the seven thunders is based partly on our prior argument that they are parallel with the seals and trumpets and that the first six woes of each series are inaugurated.  In addition, the judgment in Deut.32:32 is referred to as one of ‘bitterness’, the same word John uses in 8:11 to describe the third trumpet plague and in 10:9-10 to describe the woe of 11:1-13.”[4]

“The promise of ‘no more delay’ (10:6) reminds us that though we must wait now, delay will not last forever.  A time is coming when God will fulfill all his promises made throughout history (Acts 3:21).  As … Joseph Charles Price, put it, ‘No matter how dark the night, I believe in the coming of the dawn.’”[5]

v. 7 “In Paul’s writings, mystery refers to God’s strategy to redeem people through Christ (Eph 3:9).  Here, the context suggests that the mystery means God’s purpose in history, namely that the kingdom of the world will become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ (11:15).”[6]

vv.9-10 “The command to take the book and consume it and the carrying out of the command portray John’s formal recommission as a prophet. This commission has already been given in 1:10 and 4:1-2, as here, by means of allusions to Ezekiel’s commission. The precise reference here is clearly to Ezekiel 2:8-3:3, Ezekiel, like John after him, is commissioned by being told to take a scroll and to eat it, and for both the scroll’s revelatory message ‘was sweet as honey in my mouth.’

“The full meaning of Ezekiel’s commission is to be understood from the broader commissioning narrative of all of Ezekiel 2-3. Ezekiel is called to warn the Israelites of impending doom if they do not repent of unbelief and idolatry (3:17-21; chs.5-14). He is to preach so that they will ‘know that a prophet has been among them.’ Yet he is also told that ‘Israel will not be willing to listen’ to his message because ‘the whole house of Israel has a hard forehead and a stiff neck’ (2:2-8; 3:4-11). Therefore, his message is primarily one of judgment. This is explicitly emphasized by the description of the scroll: ‘it was written on the front and back, and lamentations, mourning, and woe were written on it’ (2:10). The prophet’s eating of the scroll signifies his identification with it’s message (cf.3:10: ‘take into your heart all my word [of woe] that I will speak to you’). He is the appointed minister of God not only to deliver the warning but especially to announce the judgment on which God has already decided. But there will be a remnant who will respond and repent (3:20; 9:4-6; 14:21-23).

“The scroll’s sweet taste represents the life-sustaining attribute of God’s word, which empowers the prophet to carry out his task (Deut, 8:3). The sweetness of the words also represents the positive and joyous effect God’s words have in instructing and guiding those who submit to them (e.g., Pss.19:7-11, 119:97-104; Prov. 16:21-24; 24:13-14). Although Ezekiel’s task is a sober one, he takes pleasure in the message of woe because it is God’s will, which is good and holy. The sweetness is a brief pleasure, representing the prophet’s brief delight. He does not contemplate delight in the message for long because he focuses on the overall purpose of his call, which is to announce judgment. Although Ezekiel does not refer to the scroll as being bitter in his stomach, as John will, he does refer to its ‘lamentations, mourning, and woe’ (2:10), which elicit in him a ‘bitter’ response (3:14) after he eats it (cf 3:3a). The bitterness is a response either to his grief over Israel’s impending doom or to his anger over their refusal to repent.

Notable parallels are found in Jer. 6:10b-11a and especially Jer. 15:16-17: ‘Your words were found and I ate them, and they became for me a joy and the delight of my heart…. You filled me with anger.’ The delight and anger at God’s words, which Jeremiah eats, refer respectively to the prophet’s own comfort and to the judgment of his enemies, the nominal cognate of the verb used in Rev, 10:9-10).

“John’s eating of the scroll has the same meaning as Ezekiel’s, although the historical situation is different. It represented for both prophets their total identification with the submission to the divine will as a prerequisite for their service as prophetic instruments in God’s hand. Their message carries with it the power of God’s word because it is, in fact, God’s word. But John is warning not Israel but the church. He warns the church against unbelief and compromise with the idolatrous world, and he also warns the world of unbelievers themselves.

“John and other Christian prophets actually take pleasure in God’s pronouncement of judgment (1) because God’s word expresses his holy will, which will ultimately make even events of woe redound to his glory (11:17-18; 14:7; 15:3-4; 19:1-2); (2) because God’s righteousness, justice, and holiness are demonstrated when he punishes sin; (3) because punishment of the church’s persecutors vindicates Christians and reveals that they have been in the right all along, contrary to the world’s verdict (cf 6:9-11; 18:4-7). Saints are even depicted in 19:1-4 as shouting ‘hallelujah’ when God executes his judgment. Finally, (4) the expansion of 10:8-11 in 11:1-13 shows that part of the message about judgment is an encouragement to the faithful to endure in loyalty to God’s word, which is a message of sweetness to John. Nevertheless, Christian, like God, do not take sardonic pleasure in the pain of punishment as an end in itself apart from the broader framework of justice.”[7]

v. 11 “The message of Revelation concerns ‘many peoples’ (10:11).  No one is exempt from its warnings, and those most inclined to comfort themselves with the current ease of their society should take special heed.  The cup of judgment will come to all people (Jer. 25:15-17), as will the suffering of believers (Matt. 24:9).”[8]

[1] G.K. Beale, The Book of Revelation, The New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 1999) 520.

[2] Christopher C. Rowland , “The Book of Revelation”, New Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. XII (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1998) 638.

[3] Craig S. Keener , Revelation, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 2003) 284.

[4] G.K. Beale, The Book of Revelation, The New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 1999) 538.

[5] Craig S. Keener , Revelation, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 2003) 285.

[6] Quest Study Bible, study notes (Grand Rapids, MI:  Zondervan, 1994) 1721.

[7] G.K. Beale, The Book of Revelation, The New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 1999) 550-551.

[8] Craig S. Keener , Revelation, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 2003) 285.

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