The Seer Eats a Book. Rev. 10, 1-11.

The angel with the book: V.1. 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; v.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, v.3. and cried with a loud voice as when a lion roareth; and when he had cried, seven thunders uttered their voices. Just as there had been, after the opening of the sixth seal, a passage full of comfort for the true believers, so we have, in the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth chapters, incidents that prepare for the last great woe. There are many details in these scenes which cannot be interpreted with certainty by any one but a prophet; however, the general trend of the narrative is clear. In the first scene we find: And I saw another strong angel descending out of heaven, clad in a cloud, and a rainbow on his head and his face like the sun and his feet like columns of fire. One angel had been spoken of in chap. 5, 2. Here was another angel, strong and mighty, with all the characteristics which pointed to a creature that either belonged to the angels of the Lord, or resembled them to such an extent as to deceive men. He comes in a cloud, just as the Lord descended upon the Tabernacle and upon the Temple in the Old Testament. He has a rainbow, the emblem of peace, on his head. The radiance of his face resembles that of the sun. His feet resemble pillars of fire, just as those of Christ, the great Victor over all enemies.

Of this majestic creature the seer writes: And having in his hand a small book opened; and he placed his right foot upon the sea, but the left upon the earth, and called with a great shout like a lion roaring; and when he had called, the seven thunders spoke their thunders. in chap. 5, 1 he had referred to a larger, closed book; here it is only a booklet which he sees in the hand of the angel. The colossal figure of the majestic creature bestrode land and sea, since he was possessed of great power and wanted to have his message heeded in all the wide world. For this reason also he shouted with a lion’s roaring to have his voice penetrate to the end of the world, and like a mighty echo the seven thunders rolled forth their voices in an articulate bellow like the sevenfold voices of the Lord in thunder, Ps. 29.

The message of the angel: V.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. V.5. And the angel which I saw stand upon the sea and upon the earth lifted up his hand to heaven, v.6. and sware by Him that liveth forever 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; v.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. Here is a strange interlude: And when the seven thunders had spoken, I intended to write, and I heard a voice out of heaven saying, Seal what the seven thunders have spoken, and do not write that. The message which the thunders reechoed must have been articulate, since John had evidently understood the words. And hardly had the sound rolled away, when he was ready to put the message to paper. But a voice from heaven interfered, bidding him seal or shut up the vision, keep it secret from mankind, at least for the time being. It is not necessary for men to know all the mysteries and secrets of the future. Note that John here emphasizes his prophetic authority.

Meanwhile the angel also had gotten ready for another exhibition of power and wisdom: And the angel whom I saw standing on the sea and on the earth lifted up his right hand to heaven, and swore by Him that lives forever and ever, who created the heaven and what is in it, and the earth and what is in it, and the sea and what is in it that there should be no further delay, but in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he would sound his trumpet, the mystery of God would be fulfilled, as He had proclaimed the good news to His servants, the prophets. Here the extraordinary wisdom and power of the angel again appears. With great solemnity he swears by the living God, by the almighty Creator of the universe. He knows that the last woe is about to be revealed, that there will be no further delay. God’s activity in creation and providence would culminate in judgment; all is ripe for the end, just as the promise had been given to the prophets of the Lord. This is good news to the servants of God, to the believers; it shows them that their deliverance is near.

John swallows the little book: V.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. V.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. V.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. V.11. And he said unto me, Thou must prophesy again before many peoples and nations and tongues and kings. This is another interlude with a strange cast: And the voice which I had heard out of heaven I (once more heard) speaking to me and saying, Go take the opened booklet out of the hand of the angel that stands on the sea and on the earth. This vision resembles that related Ezek. 3, l-3, and it has much the same meaning. The voice from heaven is again distinguished from that of the angel, as it bids John take the open booklet from the angel.

The scene grows in strangeness: And I went to the angel, saying to him, Give me the booklet; and he said to me, Take and swallow it, and it will make thy stomach bitter, but in thy mouth it will be sweet as honey. Surely a most peculiar situation which has the angel voice such a command, that the seer devour the small scroll, which, though it would taste sweet, would be bitter to digest. But John obeyed: And I took the booklet out of the hand of the angel and swallowed it, and it was in my mouth sweet as honey; and when I had eaten it, my stomach was bitter. As he had been told, he eagerly devoured the scroll, and the effects were just as the angel had foretold, a sweet taste in the mouth, but a feeling of great bitterness in the stomach.

John now receives a last command: And he said to me, It is necessary that thou prophesy again of peoples and nations and tongues and many kings. The revelation had been made, and John was commissioned to make known the visions. The message which he should proclaim concerned all men of all nations and of all tongues, rulers and subjects alike. Thus we again have evidence that the seer wrote at the command and by the inspiration of the Lord, that we have, in this book, eternal truth.

It now remains to see what this vision, as a whole, signifies. The force of the entire picture seems to point to a preparation for the last woe, and in this sense it was understood by most Lutheran commentators. The entire appearance of the angel symbolizes the essence and the character of the last woe. He came with great spiritual show, as one that personified Christ Himself, as one that represented Christ’s work, Christ’s truth, Christ’s kingdom, His threatening voice demanded acknowledgement of his person and of his doctrine, of his decrees, as they were contained in the booklet, in the small scroll. As John found, these decrees and doctrines were indeed sweet to the taste and pleasant to the flesh, but he was later convinced that they were dangerous for heart and conscience, that they destroyed faith. Thus this angel, under the guise of the highest sanctity, represents the power of hell, which appeared with great spiritual show and under the name and the mask of Christ, but whose intention was through doctrines of men, which pleased the perverted flesh, to destroy both faith and conscience. This description, as we shall see, fits the Pope of Rome as the true Antichrist.

Summary. The seer beholds an angel with a booklet coming down from heaven, bearing a threatening message; he swallows the little scroll and experiences a sweet taste in the mouth, followed by a bitter feeling in the stomach.