Reading for Friday, Nov 23: Revelation 10
Just as there was a break between the sixth and seventh seals being opened (7:1-17), so too do we have a break between the sixth and seventh trumpets. In ch7, the interlude between the opening of the seals is a jarring one, filled with a vision of multitudes singing their praise to God. We’d expect the final seal to be opened rather quickly, but instead…we wait. And this waiting is an expression of the church’s situation. Perhaps we thought the Lord would’ve returned by now. Certainly those earliest generations of followers believed His return was imminent. But John’s vision artfully depict our current situation. Here in ch10, we have yet another break in the action, as the trumpet blasts are interrupted by this vivid scene with “another mighty angel”.
This angel is accompanied by clouds, with a rainbow over his head — an obvious allusion to the Noah story. The rainbow stands as a reminder of covenantal hope against what is described as a “bitter” message (10:10).
John’s interaction with this angel calls to mind several more Old Testament texts. The angel tells John that there will be no more delay in God’s long awaited activity (v6), which brings Daniel 12:1-10 to mind. From Fred Craddock and Eugene Boring, speaking of Daniel 12: “There a mighty angel speaks of a great tribulation to come, followed by resurrection and judgment, and commands that the revelation be sealed until the time of the end.” In John’s vision, the scroll has been opened — as we have seen, Christ has been deemed worthy to open it. Clearly, John sees the church’s present situation as a fulfillment of Daniel’s prophetic vision. Daniel goes on to speak of a time of tribulation: time, two times, and half a time, or three and a half years. But this period of time — roughly 1280 days — is not taken literally by John. Instead, he sees this as an expression of the finite nature of the tribulation. It will not last long! There is no more delay!
John also receives this command concerning the scroll: “Take and eat it; it will make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be sweet as honey.” (v9). Of course, Ezekiel was given the same command in his day; his message was sweet in his mouth because it came from the Lord, yet it was a bitter word of judgment, poorly received by those who heard it. All who would take up this kind of work of proclamation know this taste — these words are sweet in our mouths because they are the words of life, and yet they produce bitterness in us at the same time as we see people refuse to accept them, even reject them. John believes that God’s plan and purposes, beginning centuries earlier in the ministry and proclamations of the prophets, are now being fulfilled and realized in the church’s period of tribulation.