23 - When God Breaks His Silence
|When God Breaks His Silence(Revelation 10:1–11)|
And I saw another mighty angel come down from heaven, clothed with a cloud: and a rainbow was upon his head, and his face was as it were the sun, and his feet as pillars of fire: 2 And he had in his hand a little book open: and he set his right foot upon the sea, and his left foot on the earth, 3 And cried with a loud voice, as when a lion roareth: and when he had cried, seven thunders uttered their voices. 4 And when the seven thunders had uttered their voices, I was about to write: and I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Seal up those things which the seven thunders uttered, and write them not. 5 And the angel which I saw stand upon the sea and upon the earth lifted up his hand to heaven, 6 And sware by him that liveth for ever and ever, who created heaven, and the things that therein are, and the earth, and the things that therein are, and the sea, and the things which are therein, that there should be time no longer: 7 But in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound, the mystery of God should be finished, as he hath declared to his servants the prophets.
8 And the voice which I heard from heaven spake unto me again, and said, Go and take the little book which is open in the hand of the angel which standeth upon the sea and upon the earth. 9 And I went unto the angel, and said unto him, Give me the little book. And he said unto me, Take it, and eat it up; and it shall make thy belly bitter, but it shall be in thy mouth sweet as honey. 10 And I took the little book out of the angel’s hand, and ate it up; and it was in my mouth sweet as honey: and as soon as I had eaten it, my belly was bitter. 11 And he said unto me, Thou must prophesy again before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings. (10:1–11)
Intro: A question that has troubled God’s people throughout history is why God has allowed evil in the world. The wicked often appear to prosper. Sin seemingly runs wild and unchecked. Why, people ask, does God not stop all the carnage, corruption, and chaos in the world? Why does He allow His children to suffer? When will divine justice prevail and the righteous be delivered and the wicked punished?
· In the midst of his trials Job complained that “the tents of the destroyers prosper, and those who provoke God are secure. … Why do the wicked still live, continue on, also become very powerful?” (Job 12:6; 21:7).
· The psalmists frequently ask why God tolerates evil men. In Psalm 10:1–5 the psalmist asks God, Why do You stand afar off, O Lord? Why do You hide Yourself in times of trouble?
· “How long, O God, will the adversary revile,” lamented Asaph, “and the enemy spurn Your name forever? Why do You withdraw Your hand, even Your right hand?” (Ps. 74:10–11).
· In another Psalm Asaph pleaded, “O God, do not remain quiet; do not be silent and, O God, do not be still. For behold, Your enemies make an uproar, and those who hate You have exalted themselves” (Ps. 83:1–2).
· In Psalm 94:3–4 an anonymous psalmist complained to God: “How long shall the wicked, O Lord, how long shall the wicked exult? They pour forth words, they speak arrogantly; all who do wickedness vaunt themselves.”
· Echoing the cry of the psalmists, Jeremiah prayed, Righteous are You, O Lord, that I would plead my case with You; Indeed I would discuss matters of justice with You: Why has the way of the wicked prospered? (Jer. 12:1–3)
· “Your eyes are too pure to approve evil,” affirmed Habakkuk, “and You can not look on wickedness with favor. Why,” the confused prophet went on to ask, “do You look with favor on those who deal treacherously? Why are You silent when the wicked swallow up those more righteous than they?” (Hab. 1:13).
· The Tribulation martyrs in heaven cried out to God, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” (Rev. 6:10).
· All the pain, sorrow, suffering, and evil in the world cause the godly to long for God to intervene. A day is coming when He will break His silence, a day when all the purposes of God concerning men and the world will be consummated.
· At that time, the Lord Jesus Christ will return and establish His earthly kingdom.
o He will rule righteously, with “a rod of iron” (Ps. 2:9),
o and “the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Isa. 11:9).
o All the atheists, agnostics, and scoffers who mocked the thought that Christ would return (2 Pet. 3:3–4) will be silenced.
o The millennia of sin, lies, murders, thefts, wars, and the persecution and martyrdom of God’s people will be over.
o Satan and his demon hosts will be bound and cast into the abyss for a thousand years (Rev. 20:1–3), unable any longer to tempt, torment, or accuse believers.
o The desert will become a blossoming garden (cf. Isa. 35:1; 51:3; Ezek. 36:34–35), people will live long lives (Isa. 65:20), and there will be peace between former enemies at all levels of society—and even in the animal kingdom (Isa. 11:6–8).
o The ravages of sin—broken hearts, broken relationships, broken marriages, broken families, broken dreams, broken people—will be healed.
o Sorrow, sadness, mourning, and pain will vanish like the morning mists before the noonday sun (cf. Rev. 7:17; 21:4).
The sounding of the seventh trumpet, which heralds the imminent return and reign of the Lord Jesus Christ, will usher in that long-anticipated day: “Then the seventh angel sounded; and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever’ ” (11:15). The seventh trumpet will release the seven rapid-fire bowl judgments that immediately precede Christ’s return to earth (16:1–21).
- But before the seventh trumpet sounds there will be an interlude, which stretches from 10:1 to 11:14, allowing John (and present-day readers) to pause and assimilate the startling truths that have just been revealed to him.
- The interlude between the sixth and seventh trumpets parallels such interludes in the seal and bowl judgments. Between the sixth and seventh seals came the interlude of chapter 7; between the sixth and seventh bowls comes the brief interlude of 16:15.
- These interludes encourage God’s people in the midst of the fury and horror of divine judgment, and remind them that God is still in sovereign control of all events.
- During the interludes God comforts His people with the knowledge that He has not forgotten them, and that they will ultimately be victorious.
- That is especially true in the longest (in terms of the amount of material devoted to it) of the three interludes, this one between the sixth and seventh trumpets (10:1–11:14).
- Believers alive during that time will endure the unimaginable horrors of a demon-assaulted, sin-mad world. Like the believers of Malachi’s day (cf. Mal. 3:16–17), they will fear being swept away by the divine judgments that are ravaging the earth. God will comfort and reassure them that He has not forgotten them and that He still controls events and protects His own.
- Chapter 10 describes the opening events of this interlude preparing for the final trumpet blast. It does so by describing five unusual features: an unusual angel, an unusual act, an unusual answer, an unusual announcement, and an unusual assignment.
1. An Unusual Angel
I saw another strong angel coming down out of heaven, clothed with a cloud; and the rainbow was upon his head, and his face was like the sun, and his feet like pillars of fire; and he had in his hand a little book which was open. (10:1–2a)
a. As it does throughout Revelation (cf. 4:1; 7:1, 9; 15:5; 18:1; 19:1), eidon (I saw) marks the beginning of a new vision.
b. Following his vision of the first six trumpets (8:6–9:21), John saw a vision of someone he had heretofore not seen. This strong angel is distinct from the seven angels who sound the seven trumpets.
c. Noting the similarities between his description and that of Christ in 1:12–17, and that he, like Christ, descends in a cloud (cf. 1:7), some identify this angel as Jesus Christ. But several factors argue against that identification.
i. First, the use of allos (another of the same kind) identifies this angel as one exactly like the previously mentioned trumpet angels. If Christ were being referred to here, the word heteros (another of a different kind) would be expected, since Christ is essentially different from angels. Christ could not be described as an angel exactly like the other angels, since they are created and He is the uncreated, eternal God.
ii. Second, whenever Jesus Christ appears in Revelation John gives Him an unmistakable title. He is called “the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth” (1:5), the son of man (1:13), the first and the last (1:17), the living One (1:18), the Son of God (2:18), “He who is holy, who is true” (3:7), “the Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God” (3:14), “the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David” (5:5), the Lamb (6:1, 16; 7:17; 8:1), Faithful and True (19:11), the Word of God (19:13), and “King of Kings, and Lord of Lords” (19:16). It is reasonable to assume that if Christ were the angel in view here He would be distinctly identified.
iii. Third, other strong angels, who clearly cannot be identified with Christ, appear in Revelation (5:2; 18:21). Since other angels are so designated, there is no compelling reason to associate that title with Jesus Christ. Further, while the preincarnate Christ appeared in the Old Testament as the Angel of the Lord, the New Testament nowhere refers to Him as an angel.
iv. Fourth, it is inconceivable that Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity, could make the oath that this angel makes in verses 5 and 6: “Then the angel whom I saw standing on the sea and on the land lifted up his right hand to heaven, and swore by Him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and the things in it, and the earth and the things in it, and the sea and the things in it.” Since He is God, the risen, glorified Lord Jesus Christ would swear by Himself (cf. Heb. 6:13).
v. Finally, this angel came down out of heaven to the earth. To identify him as Christ is to add another coming of Christ to the earth unfore seen elsewhere in Scripture, one that is not in accord with the biblical descriptions of the Second Coming (cf. Matt. 24:30; 25:31; 2 Thess. 1:7–8).
d. Other angels described in Scripture have the same splendor that this angel has. Ezekiel 28:11–15 describes Lucifer’s glorious angelic appearance before his rebellion against God:
i. Daniel saw a vision of an angel, whom he described as “a certain man dressed in linen, whose waist was girded with a belt of pure gold of Uphaz. His body also was like beryl, his face had the appearance of lightning, his eyes were like flaming torches, his arms and feet like the gleam of polished bronze, and the sound of his words like the sound of a tumult” (Dan. 10:5–6). (That the angel of Daniel’s vision is not the preincarnate Christ is evident from the fact that he requires Michael’s help to battle demons, v. 13.)
e. Having introduced this powerful angel, John describes his spectacular attire.
i. He was clothed with a cloud, wearing the drapery of the sky over his mighty shoulders. That symbolizes his power, majesty, and glory, and the fact that he comes bringing judgment. Clouds are associated with the second coming of Christ in judgment in 1:7; 14:14–16; Matthew 24:30; Mark 13:26; 14:62; and Luke 21:27.
ii. John also saw a rainbow upon his head. Iris (rainbow) was the Greek goddess who personified the rainbow, and served as a messenger of the gods. In classical Greek iris was used to describe any bright halo surrounding another object, such as the circle surrounding the eyes on a peacock’s tail, or the iris of an eye (Marvin R. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament [Reprint; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1946]; 2:477). Here it describes the brilliant, many-colored rainbow around the angel’s head that reflects his glorious splendor. The same word was used in 4:3 to describe the rainbow that encircled the throne of God.
iii. While the cloud symbolizes judgment, the rainbow represents God’s covenant mercy in the midst of judgment (as it did in 4:3). After the Flood, God gave the rainbow as the sign of His promise never again to destroy the world by water (Gen. 9:12–16). The rainbow with which the angel is crowned will reassure God’s people of His mercy in the midst of coming judgments.
f. Moving on to describe the angel’s appearance, John notes first of all that his face was like the sun (cf. 18:1). His brilliant, radiant glory, far surpassing that of Moses (cf. Ex. 34:29–35), lit up the earth like the blazing noonday sun (cf. 18:1). Yet even that brilliance is but a pale reflection of the Shechinah glory of God, who “dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see” (1 Tim. 6:16), for, as He said to Moses, “You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live!” (Ex. 33:20). The same pure glory shone from the face of the exalted Lord Jesus in 1:16.
g. John next described the angel’s feet and legs as being like firm, stable, immovable pillars of fire. That symbolizes his unbending holiness in stamping out his judgment on the earth, pictured here as fire that consumes the ungodly (cf. Mal. 4:1).
h. The little book lying open in this unusual angel’s hand unveils all the terrors of divine judgment yet to come.
2. An Unusual Act
He placed his right foot on the sea and his left on the land; and he cried out with a loud voice, as when a lion roars; and when he had cried out, the seven peals of thunder uttered their voices. (10:2b–3)
a. That the angel put one foot on the sea and the other on the land shows his massive size from the perspective of John’s vision. Since no limitation is given in describing the sea and land, this action of the angel demonstrates God’s sovereign authority to judge the entire earth (cf. 7:2; Ex. 20:4, 11; Ps. 69:34), which He will soon take back from the usurper, Satan. Paul wrote, “The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains” (1 Cor. 10:26). The angel’s act also symbolically anticipates the coming judgments of the seventh trumpet and the seven bowls on the whole earth.
b. In keeping with his huge size, the angel cried out with a loud voice, as when a lion roars. His loud cry reflects the power, majesty, and authority of God. The Old Testament prophets also connect a loud, lionlike roaring voice with judgment.
a. Jeremiah predicted that, The Lord will roar from on high And utter His voice from His holy abitation; He will roar mightily against His fold. He will shout like those who tread the grapes, Against all the inhabitants of the earth. (Jer. 25:30)
b. Hosea wrote that “the Lord … will roar like a lion; indeed He will roar” (Hos. 11:10),
c. while in Joel’s prophecy “the Lord roars from Zion and utters His voice from Jerusalem, and the heavens and the earth tremble” (Joel 3:16).
d. Amos also depicts a loud judgment cry (Amos 1:2; 3:8). This does not mean that the voice of the angel was incoherent yelling. Rather, he was speaking clearly but with great volume to capture attention and cause fear. What the angel actually said is recorded in 10:6.
c. After the angel cried out an amazing thing happened: the seven peals of thunder uttered their voices.
a. even speaks of completeness, finality, and perfection.
b. Thunder is often a harbinger of judgment in Scripture (cf. 8:5; 11:19; 16:18; 1 Sam. 2:10; 2 Sam. 22:14; Ps. 18:13; John 12:28–30).
i. Exodus 9:23 records that “Moses stretched out his staff toward the sky, and the Lord sent thunder and hail, and fire ran down to the earth. And the Lord rained hail on the land of Egypt.”
ii. In 1 Samuel 7:10 “the Lord thundered with a great thunder on that day against the Philistines and confused them, so that they were routed before Israel.”
iii. Isaiah wrote, “From the Lord of hosts you will be punished with thunder and earthquake and loud noise” (Isa. 29:6).
c. These seven loud, shattering, powerful voices cry out for vengeance and judgment upon the sinful earth. The thunder was separate from the angel’s voice and may have represented the voice of God (cf. 1 Sam. 7:10; Ps. 18:13). The text does not say what the thunder said, but hearing it certainly would have added to the terror of the scene of judgment (cf. 8:5; 11:19; 16:18).
3. An Unusual Answer
When the seven peals of thunder had spoken, I was about to write; and I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Seal up the things which the seven peals of thunder have spoken and do not write them.” (10:4)
a. The seven peals of thunder did not merely make a loud noise, but communicated information that John was about to write. In obedience to God’s commands, John had already written much of what he saw in his visions.
b. But before John could record the message of the seven peals of thunder he heard a voice from heaven (cf. v. 8; 11:12; 14:2, 13; 18:4) saying, “Seal up the things which the seven peals of thunder have spoken and do not write them.”
i. Whether the voice was that of the Father, Jesus Christ, or another angel is not revealed. The command, however, clearly originated with God—the very One who had commanded John to write (cf. 22:10).
ii. The reason John was forbidden to record the message of the seven peals of thunder is not revealed. It may be that the judgment they uttered is simply too terrifying to be revealed. Any speculation as to the specific content of their message is pointless; had God wanted it to be known, He would not have forbidden John to write it.
c. Daniel also was forbidden to record certain elements of his visions.
i. In Daniel 8:26 he was commanded, “The vision of the evenings and mornings which has been told is true; but keep the vision secret, for it pertains to many days in the future.” Later he was told, “Go your way, Daniel, for these words are concealed and sealed up until the end time” (Dan. 12:9).
d. The apostle Paul was “caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak” (2 Cor. 12:4).
e. There are some truths that God has chosen not to reveal: “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law” (Deut. 29:29); “God thunders with His voice wondrously, doing great things which we cannot comprehend” (Job 37:5).
f. The words of the seven peals of thunder fall into that category. They are the only words in the book of Revelation that are sealed.
4. An Unusual Announcement
Then the angel whom I saw standing on the sea and on the land lifted up his right hand to heaven, and swore by Him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and the things in it, and the earth and the things in it, and the sea and the things in it, that there will be delay no longer, but in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, then the mystery of God is finished, as He preached to His servants the prophets. (10:5–7)
1. In a solemn act, the angel whom John saw standing on the sea and on the land (v. 2) lifted up his right hand (the little book was in his left hand; v. 2) to heaven (where God dwells)—the standard gesture for taking a solemn vow (cf. Deut. 32:40; Dan. 12:7).
2. To take such a vow is to affirm before God that one is going to speak the truth. That vow indicated that what the angel was about to say was of the utmost importance and truthfulness.
3. The specific content of the angel’s oath was that there will be delay no longer, answering the question of the martyrs, “How long?” (6:10), and the prayers of the saints in 8:3–5.
4. The phrase but in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound indicates that the judgment of the seventh trumpet is about to come and that it is not a single event, but covers days—indicating a period of time. This period includes the seven bowl judgments (16:1–21), which would appear to require some weeks or months to unfold. So the sounding of the seventh trumpet brings the final judgment depicted in the bowls of fury poured out on the earth. The time of God’s patience is seen as having ended; the time for the final acts of judgment is seen as being at hand. The time anticipated in the disciples’ questions recorded in Matthew 24:3 and Acts 1:6 has come. The prayers of all the saints of all the ages for the consummation of God’s kingdom are about to be answered (cf. 6:9–11; Matt. 6:9–10). When the seventh angel sounds, “The kingdom of the world [will] become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever” (11:15).
5. At that time the mystery of God will have been finished, as He preached to His servants the prophets. Mystery in Scripture refers to truths God has hidden and will reveal in His time.
a. Paul wrote: Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past, but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations, leading to obedience of faith. (Rom. 16:25–26)
b. Mysteries hidden in the past that the New Testament reveals include the “mysteries of the kingdom” (Matt. 13:11), the mystery of Israel’s blindness (Rom. 11:25), the mystery of the Rapture (1 Cor. 15:51), the “mystery of lawlessness” (2 Thess. 2:7), the “mystery of Christ” (Eph. 3:4) and of “Christ and the church” (Eph. 5:32), the mystery of Christ in the believer (Col. 1:26–27), and the mystery of the Incarnation (1 Tim. 3:16).
c. Paul saw himself as a “steward” or guardian and dispenser of these great mysteries (1 Cor. 4:1), to “bring to light” these mysteries “which for ages [have] been hidden in God” (Eph. 3:9).
6. The mystery of God (cf. 1 Cor. 2:7; Col. 2:2) of which the angel spoke is that of “the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth” (Eph. 1:10). It is the consummation of God’s plan in bringing His glorious kingdom in Christ to fulfillment. It involves the salvation of the elect and their place in His glorious kingdom and all that goes with that. It includes the judgment of men and demons.
a. The mystery previously hidden refers to all the unknown details that are revealed from this point to the end of Revelation, when the new heavens and new earth are created.
b. God had preached that mystery (without all the details revealed in the New Testament) to His servants the prophets in the Old Testament, and men like Daniel, Ezekiel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Joel, Amos, and Zechariah wrote of end-time events.
c. Much of the detail, however, was hidden and not revealed until the New Testament (for example in Matt. 24, 25, and 2 Thess. 1:5–2:12), and more particularly in the previous chapters of Revelation.
d. To believers living at that time in a world overrun by demons, murder, sexual immorality, drug abuse, thefts, and unparalleled natural disasters, the realization that God’s glorious plan is on schedule, the promised kingdom is near, when “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Hab. 2:14), will bring great comfort and hope in the midst of judgment.
5. An Unusual Assignment
And the voice which I heard from heaven, I heard again speaking with me, and saying, “Go, take the book which is open in the hand of the angel who stands on the sea and on the land.” So I went to the angel, telling him to give me the little book. And he said to me, “Take it and eat it; it will make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be sweet as honey.” I took the little book out of the angel’s hand and ate it, and in my mouth it was sweet as honey; and when I had eaten it, my stomach was made bitter. And they said to me, “You must prophesy again concerning many peoples and nations and tongues and kings.” (10:8–11)
a. The voice John had earlier heard from heaven (v. 4) forbidding him to record the words of the seven peals of thunder spoke to him again. As he had earlier (cf. 1:17; 4:1; 5:4–5; 7:13–14), John again became an active participant in this vision. He left the place of an observer to become an actor in the drama.
b. The voice said to him, “Go, take the book which is open in the hand of the angel who stands on the sea and on the land.” This third reference to the location of the angel emphasizes strongly the unusual authority he has over the earth. Then, in a graphic illustration of what a proper response on the part of believers to God’s impending judgment should be, John was told, “Take it and eat it; it will make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be sweet as honey.” The angel knew what John’s reaction to this truth would be. Obediently, like Ezekiel before him (Ezek. 2:9–3:3), John in the vision symbolically took the little book out of the angel’s hand and ate it. As the angel had predicted, in John’s mouth it was sweet as honey; but when he had eaten it, his stomach was made bitter.
c. The act of eating the scroll symbolized the absorbing and assimilating of God’s Word (cf. Ps. 19:10; Jer. 15:16; Ezek. 3:1–3). When John took in the divine word concerning the remaining judgments as the Lord took possession of the universe, he found the words written on the little book both sweet as honey and bitter. Sweet because John, like all believers, wanted the Lord to act in judgment to take back the earth that is rightfully His and be exalted, honored, and glorified as He deserved. But the realization of the terrible doom awaiting unbelievers turned that initial sweet taste into bitterness.
d. All who love Jesus Christ can relate to John’s ambivalence. Believers long for Christ to return in glory, for Satan to be destroyed, and the glorious kingdom of our Lord to be set up on earth, in which He will rule in universal sovereignty and glory while establishing in the world righteousness, truth, and peace. But they, like Paul (Rom. 9:1–3), mourn bitterly over the judgment of the ungodly.
e. In keeping with his bittersweet experience, John was told, “You must prophesy again concerning many peoples and nations and tongues and kings.” Again indicates John was being commissioned a second time (cf. 1:19) to write the rest of the prophecies God was going to give him. What he was about to learn would be more devastating than anything yet revealed—and more glorious. He was to be faithful to his duty to record all the truth he had seen and would soon see.
f. The prophecies John would receive would relate to everyone (summed up in the four people groups of 5:9 and 7:9) everywhere. So John is to warn of all the bitter judgments coming in the seventh trumpet and the seven bowls. As an exile on Patmos (1:9) he had no opportunity to preach to all nations, but he was to write the prophecies and distribute them, so as to warn all people of the bitterness of judgment to come, and of death and hell. Sinners everywhere may know because John recorded these prophecies that, while judgment is presently restrained, a future day is coming when the seventh angel will sound his trumpet and sin’s dominion will be broken, the freedom of Satan and his demons will come to an end, godless men will be judged, and believers will be glorified. This chapter presents an interlude of hope tinged with bitterness that reminds all Christians of their evangelistic responsibilities to warn the world of that day.
MacArthur, J. (1999). Revelation 1-11 (275). Chicago: Moody Press.