You must prophesy again: Revelation 10

Previously: Take the scroll … and eat it

The scripture

Rev. 10:11 –  And I was told, “You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, languages, and kings.” (HCSB)

You must prophesy again (v. 11)

Finally, John is told he “must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, languages, and kings” (v. 11). Another possible translation is that John must prophesy “against” or “concerning” many peoples. While the Lamb redeems a countless throng from every tribe, language, people and nation (Rev. 5:9; 7:9-17), there are hoards of stiff-necked unbelievers who resist the gospel John preaches, war against Christ and His people, and bring upon themselves certain destruction (Rev. 11:9; 13:7; 17:15; 19:11-21). Kings in particular will take their stand on the side of evil and will pay dearly for it (Rev. 6:15; 16:12-14; 17:2, 18; 19:18-19).

“The apostle is made to know that this book of prophecy, which he had now taken in, was not given him merely to gratify his own curiosity, or to affect him with pleasure or pain, but to be communicated by him to the world” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume, Rev. 10:8-10).

Like John, all Christians bear witness of both life and death. The apostle Paul writes, “But thanks be to God, who always puts us on display in Christ, and spreads through us in every place the scent of knowing Him. For to God we are the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To some we are a scent of death leading to death, but to others, a scent of life leading to life” (2 Cor. 2:14-16).

Faithful ministers of the word will not shrink back from declaring “the whole plan of God” (Acts 20:27). Neither will they water down the Lord’s message for personal gain, or to please their listeners. Paul charges the young pastor Timothy, “[P]roclaim the message; persist in it whether convenient or not; rebuke, correct, and encourage with great patience and teaching. For the time will come when they will not tolerate sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, will accumulate teachers for themselves because they have an itch to hear something new. They will turn away from hearing the truth and will turn aside to myths. But as for you, keep a clear head about everything, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (2 Tim. 4:2-5).

John must certainly prophesy about – and against – many people.

Four major views of chapter 10

How do supporters of the four major interpretations of Revelation view the interlude described in chapter 10?

  • Preterists – who see the events of Revelation as fulfilled in the first centuries of the church age – believe the mighty angel is Jesus, who stands symbolically over Israel (the land) and the Gentile nations (the sea). The little scroll in his hand is the same scroll we encounter in chapter 5, but now with the last of its seals opened. It is, some say, essentially the Book of Revelation; but others contend it is additional information about the future fall of Rome (Rev. 13-19), building upon what already has been revealed about the destruction of Jerusalem (Rev. 4-11). The seven thunders are the voice of God, as David depicts in Psalm 29. John is not permitted to write this down either because the details are too gruesome or because there are some future events the Lord has chosen not to reveal beforehand to the church. The end of all delays means the prayers of the martyrs are being answered and the Lord is coming to execute judgment on the nation of Israel – and later, Rome – for its persecution of the saints. The distinctively Jewish nature of the church is about to give way to the Gentiles being on equal footing with the Jews. John’s eating of the scroll is similar to the actions of Ezekiel (Ezek. 3:1-3, 14); just as Jerusalem falls to the Babylonians in 586 B.C., the city will fall to the Romans in 70 A.D.
  • Historicists – who view the events of Revelation as unfolding throughout the course of history – say the mighty angel is Christ, and the open scroll is the Bible, which finally became accessible to the masses in Europe after the invention of the movable-type printing press and the translation of scripture into contemporary European languages in the late 1400s and 1500s. The loud voice of the angel (v. 3) is Christ’s challenge to the Roman Catholic Church through the Reformers. The seven thunders are interpreted in a variety of ways, including the seven crusades, and Papal anathemas against Luther and the Reformation. The announcement that there will be no more delay is a warning to the Roman Catholic Church that the time to repent is past and judgment is about to fall. John’s consumption of the little scroll symbolizes the sweetness of the scriptures to common people, who have been starved of God’s Word for so long. The bitterness hints at persecution at the hands of the Catholic Church. Finally, the imperative that John “must prophesy” is a signal that the gospel will be advanced through preaching, one of the great distinguishing characteristics of the Reformation.
  • Futurists – who say the events of Revelation are largely unfulfilled, especially chapters 4-22 – are divided as to whether the mighty angel is Christ or a very powerful heavenly messenger. There also is disagreement about the “little scroll” Some view it as the written authority for the angel to fulfill his mission. Others see it as a message for church, while still others contend it stands for the Old Testament prophecies relating to Israel and the Tribulation. The command to seal up the words of the seven thunders illustrates the divine principle that while God has revealed much, He has not seen fit to reveal all. The sweetness of the little scroll on John’s tongue demonstrates the gracious promises of God, while the bitterness in his stomach foretells the Lord’s wrath on the wicked world.
  • Some idealists, or spiritualists – who see Revelation setting forth timeless truths concerning the battle between good and evil – argue that the mighty angel is Jesus, while others contend he is a special envoy of the Lord’s as evidenced by the fact that John respects him but does not worship him. Standing with one foot on the land and one in the sea, the angel has a message for the entire world, contained in the “little scroll.” The seven thunders are the voice of the Lord, but the sealing up of His words demonstrates that He has not made His whole counsel known as yet to people. The “hidden plan,” or mystery, of God is interpreted variously as the union of Jews and Gentiles into one body in Christ; the whole purpose of God in history; and the final judgment of the wicked, giving way to the full salvation of the saints. The taste of the little scroll in John’s mouth symbolizes the sweetness of the gospel, while the bitterness in his stomach represents the persecution that follows the gospel’s proclamation. The statement that John must prophesy again acknowledges his faithful preaching until now, and assures him he will yet share God’s message with the whole world (“peoples, nations, languages, and kings”).

____________________

* It is true that God put Himself “under oath” when He made His covenant with Abraham (Heb. 6:13–20) and when He declared His Son to be High Priest (Heb. 7:20–22). He also took an oath when He promised David that the Christ would come from his family (Acts 2:29–30). This is not the same, however, as Jesus taking an oath by the One seated on the throne. If this angel is Christ, and therefore God, should He not have put Himself “under oath” as His Father did?

Next: The two witnesses – Revelation 11:1-14

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