Revelation 10 Bible Study Questions and Answers: God's Judgment Is Both Sweet and Bitter
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Revelation 10 Bible Study Questions and Answers
Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven, wrapped in a cloud, with a rainbow over his head, and his face was like the sun, and his legs like pillars of fire. 2 He had a little scroll open in his hand. And he set his right foot on the sea, and his left foot on the land, 3 and called out with a loud voice, like a lion roaring. When he called out, 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 And the angel whom I saw standing on the sea and on 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, that there would be no more delay, 7 but that in the days of the trumpet call to be sounded by the seventh angel, the mystery of God would be fulfilled, just as he announced to his servants the prophets.
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 and eat it; it will make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be sweet as honey.” 10 And 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. 11 And I was told, “You must again prophesy about many peoples and nations and languages and kings.”
Who is the mighty angel in verse one? What does he have in his hand?
The angel has a voice like a roaring lion. In Revelation, Jesus is described as having a voice like a trumpet and like “the roar of many waters” (which is an echo back to Ezekiel 43:1-2, where the coming of the Lord himself is said to be like “the sound of many waters”).
Ezekiel 43:1-2 “Then he [led] me to the gate, the gate facing east. And behold, the glory of the God of Israel was coming from the east. And the sound of his coming was like the sound of many waters, and the earth shone with his glory.”
The angel descending from heaven is powerful, extremely powerful. He is wrapped in a cloud and has a rainbow over his head (for more on the rainbow imagery, see below). The cloud imagery comes directly from Daniel 7 and is one of the most important and robust Messianic prophecies in all of the First Testament (see Matthew 26:64 for starters):
Daniel 7:13-14 “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.”
Is it possible that this angel is the Angel of the Lord, i.e., God himself? As of this writing, I am honestly torn on the issue. While the immensity of symbolism attached to this angel leads one to think that anything is possible, some reasons seem to work against the idea that this angel represents the Angel of Yahweh or Christ himself.
There is no doubt that much like Chapter 7, Chapter 10 acts as an interlude. It changes our perspective and suddenly gives us a parallel view of what is happening on the earth, as opposed to in heaven, at this point in John’s vision. Notice that John’s viewpoint has changed. Whereas before, from Chapter 4 onward, John was standing and looking from heaven, he is now standing on earth looking up to heaven.
That this interlude includes John looking up from earth to see a “magnificent angel coming from heaven, wrapped in a cloud” and that this angel carries authority over land and sea indicates that this angel is nothing if not special (for more on the actions this mighty angel takes, see below). Perhaps the most potent argument in favor of this angel being a representation of Christ Himself: the early church seems to have believed strongly in this interpretation.
Are we told what the scroll is in his hand? What do you think it is?
We are not told explicitly in Revelation 10 what this scroll contains. However, we know from chapters 5-8 that scrolls being held either by divine or angelic beings represent judgment. This scroll is no different. An angel descending from heaven holding a “little scroll” likely means that this scroll is not as all-encompassing or grand as the one held by the Father (5:1), which the Lamb could only open.
Also, an exciting feature of this little scroll must be noticed: it is sealed. It features some aspects of the Last Days and God’s judgment that we are uninformed about. This is important, for it reminds us that God is not obligated to tell us everything about the future. Indeed, we all see through a glass darkly here and now, and only when the Seven Trumpet Judgments are unleashed on the earth during the Great Tribulation will the people of God know fully all that they entail.
What does the angel do? Let’s walk through his actions step-by-step and discuss their significance.
First, he descends from heaven, wrapped in a cloud with a rainbow over his head. The image of the angel coming down from heaven is strong. It is meant to signal to us that this angel is not just any old angel but one coming directly from God and powerful enough to descend from heaven. His face shines like the sun, precisely what happened to Jesus during the transfiguration (Matthew 17:2), and he has a rainbow over his head.
The rainbow represents more powerful imagery. The first time a rainbow is mentioned in the Bible tells us why God created them: they signify that God will never again destroy the earth via a flood. The fact that this angel has a rainbow over his head could mean one of two things: even though he is bringing judgment to the earth, God’s mercy is still being offered to the world’s people. Or, he is powerful and mighty enough of an angel to show that he is keeping God’s promise of never flooding the earth again while simultaneously ushering in a different form of judgment that spells disaster for the people of the earth.
The angel places one foot on the sea and the land. This shows us two things: he has been given dominion over everything. His judgments will harm land and sea, and nothing on the earth is outside his purview. But also, in the Bible, the sea often represents the kingdom of darkness –where Satan and his colleagues dwell. The sea is both mysterious and dangerous. Thus, Revelation 10:2 could indicate that this angel has the power to bring judgment upon humanity and the demonic kingdom.
What does this angel call out? We do not know, but we know that his calling comes as “seven thunders.” This is judgment, precisely seven more judgments. However, these are kept sealed until the end, which means we have no idea what they are. They are preserved for a time to come. However, once the events of the Great Tribulation begin to unfold, these seven sealed thunder judgments will come with all the rest. I strongly suspect these seven judgments are sealed because they directly relate to the Kingdom of Darkness – Satan and his cohorts.
What does this angel tell John to do with the scroll in his hand, and why?
The angel tells John to take the scroll and eat it. This echoes back to Ezekiel 3:1-3 when Yahweh tells the prophet to “eat this scroll.”
Ezekiel 3:1-3 “And he [said] to me, “Son of man, eat whatever you find here. Eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel.” So I [opened] my mouth, and he [gave] me this scroll to eat. And he [said] to me, “Son of man, feed your belly with this scroll that I give you and fill your stomach with it.” Then I [ate] it, and it [was] in my mouth as sweet as honey.”
What is the purpose of having John eat the scroll? This is a figurative yet compelling picture of what we are supposed to do with all of God’s Word. Eat it. Ingest it. Let it be to us the very sustenance that propels our life and keeps us moving forward. The picture of literally eating the Word of God, of the Word of God being our sustenance, is powerful and goes all the way back to Deuteronomy. It is also picked up by Jesus in the Gospel records of his confrontation with Satan: “But he answered, ‘It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God’” Matthew 4:4.
What is “eating the scroll” preparation for? And what effect does eating the scroll have on John?
Eating the scroll prepares John to go and prophesy to many peoples, nations, and kings about what is to come. Like in Ezekiel, the picture here is that all of God’s servants – prophets, priests, ministers and evangelists – are best prepared for their task by ingesting the Word of God. There is no doubt that John is being given a specific job, but the picture still applies to all of us. As members of the new covenant (2 Corinthians 3:6) and ministers of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:17-21), all faithful believers in Jesus are responsible for taking the message of salvation to the world. We are all called to be evangelists. How do we prepare for such a task? By eating the book! By ingesting the Word of God daily, day in and day out, the Word of God becomes the soul sustenance that we learn to depend on.
Why is the scroll both bitter and sweet? This scroll, in particular, features a new set (or at least a fresh perspective) of God’s judgments. Much like the Book of Revelation itself, news of God's impending judgments should always be received with humility. When it is, a predictable reaction ensues. The hearer is stricken with the bitterness of grief in light of the sin which has necessitated such drastic judgment and is sweetly encouraged by the fact that God’s justice will one day prevail.
Deep down, every believer knows that what is coming on the earth one day in the future is not good. Things will get worse. People will suffer. What about us? There can be no doubt that while some of God’s chosen vessels on earth during this time will be sealed and thus protected, this is only after a great multitude will have laid down their lives as martyrs and faithful witnesses. The important thing for us to remember is this: without God’s mercy and grace, we would find ourselves numbered with those complicit in the evil that is bringing about such grave judgment.
In truth, the whole Bible should have the same effect on a spirit-filled reader as this little scroll had on John. It is the sweetest thing ever. It is the good news of God’s redemption, mercy, grace and love. It also puts a healthy fear into us and teaches us that if we don’t get honest about our sin and accept God’s offer of salvation, we will be the object of his judgment instead of those who assist him in mediating it.
Fear in any human’s life can be a good or bad thing, a friend or an enemy. If you or I were to be dropped onto the middle of the German Autobahn during high traffic time, we would we right to be afraid of the cars whizzing past us. That healthy fear would cause us to do everything in our power to get out of the middle of the road as quickly as possible without being struck by a speeding car. While the fear of death and Satan is no longer acceptable in the life of a believer, the fear of God is the friend of every wise person.
The Bible itself is described as being that which provides patient comfort to those who believe (Romans 15:4) so that we may be complete and fully equipped for every task that God has for us (2 Timothy 3:16). It is also said to be like a sword which cuts straight to our hearts and discerns our deepest motives, both good and bad. If a trained warrior were wielding a mighty sword right before you, one with the ability to cut straight into your heart, would it be fitting for you to have a healthy amount of fear at that moment?
 See, The Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, IVP Press; Revelation 10:1.
 See Genesis 9:8-13.
Revelation 10 Bible Study Questions and Answers: God's Judgment Is Both Sweet and Bitter