The Sweet and Sour Message of Revelation 10’s Little Scroll

Rick Warren’s two famous books ask Christians and churches to consider our purpose. Revelation 10 gives instructions to the church is the equivalent of Warren’s “Purpose Driven Life” message.

The message is an interlude of encouragement and clarification of the mission between the seals (chapter 6), trumpets (chapters 8-9), and bowls (chapter 16).

While we attempt to understand the details of the passage, we do well to think seriously about whether we are fulfilling the purpose God has for our lives.

The Mighty Angel

Revelation 9 ended by considering how humankind continued to worship substitutes for God. Their oppressive and evil behavior reflected the idols that they worshiped.

Human idolatry is contrasted with the awesome authority of God’s heavenly servants.

And I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven, wrapped in a cloud, with a rainbow over his head; his face was like the sun and his legs like pillars of fire.

He held a little scroll open in his hand. Setting his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land (Revelation 10.1-2).

The angel’s great authority is demonstrated by his awesome appearance and position on the earth.

He holds a little scroll that deals with the experience of God’s people during the final days prior to the end.

The voice of the angel calls forth a response from the seven thunders. Thunder is associated with divine retribution.

He gave a great shout, like a lion roaring. And when he shouted, the seven thunders sounded.

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” (Revelation 10.3-4).

Contrary to the behavior of humans in Revelation 9.20-21 who experience God’s awesome deeds but continue in their rebellion, John explicitly follows the direction of the angel.

He seals up the voice of the thunders and does not make known their message.

The Angel’s Message

The angel had an important message for the church. Earlier in Revelation, the saints cried out for justice.

They cried out with a loud voice, “Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long will it be before you judge and avenge our blood on the inhabitants of the earth?” (Revelation 6:10).

God ordered the angel to tell his people that the delay was over.

Then the angel whom I saw standing on the sea and the land raised his right hand to heaven 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: “There will be no more delay

But in the days when the seventh angel is to blow his trumpet, the mystery of God will be fulfilled, as he announced to his servants the prophets” (Revelation 10.5-7).

With the sound of the seventh trumpet, God’s great purpose in creation and redemption is to be brought to completion.

No matter what happens in the world, God’s people can be assured that he is active in history. He is moving all of history to the goal of the realization of his kingdom’s purpose.

Millions of times each day, God’s people pray this portion of the Lord’s Prayer.

May your kingdom come.
May your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven
(Matthew 6.10).

The mystery that will be revealed is God’s ultimate answer to this prayer.

The Little Scroll

Can you imagine being told to approach the awesome angel that spans land and sea? Only the invitation of God allowed him to do this.

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.”

So I went to the angel and told him to give me the little scroll, and he said to me, “Take it and eat; it will be bitter to your stomach but sweet as honey in your mouth.”

So 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 (Revelation 10.8-10).

Like Ezekiel and Jeremiah before him, John is to assimilate the content of the scroll before communicating it to others. Every prophet of God knows the absolute necessity of this requirement.

The message is sweet because it reveals God’s protection for his people. God will guard their spiritual relationship with him.

The message is sour, because before the final triumph believers are going to pass through a horrible ordeal.

As the people of God, they will faithfully bear witness, but they will not be delivered from trouble.

The message of Revelation 10 is a reminder of the importance of seeking and fulfilling God’s purpose for our lives. We are called to be faithful witnesses, even in the face of trouble and adversity.

We are called to trust that God is active in history, moving all of it toward the realization of his kingdom’s purpose.

As we pray for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven, we can take heart in knowing that the mystery of God’s final answer to this prayer will one day be revealed.

YouTube Video

Rudy Ross and I discuss this passage on YouTube. It is on the Bob Spradling channel.

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