Welcome to this blog which is following the Book of The Revelation. Previous blogs can be found by date from the archive, or at emmock.com bible reference, or emmock.com topic word. Comments and questions are always welcome. My other blog, which is more political can be found at xtremejesus.co
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Revelation 10 New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised (NRSVA)
The Angel with the Little Scroll
1 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. 2 He held a little scroll open in his hand. Setting his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land, 3 he gave a great shout, like a lion roaring. And when he shouted, 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 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 for ever 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, 7 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.’
8 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 it, and eat; it will be bitter to your stomach, but sweet as honey in your mouth.’ 10 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.
11 Then they said to me, ‘You must prophesy again about many peoples and nations and languages and kings.’
This powerful vision is an interlude between the first series of visions which is complete and the second series which begins with the blowing of the seventh trumpet. The passage tells the reader that the new series is not altogether different from the first, because the image of a scroll is repeated, along with the call to prophesy to the same prophet in the name of the same creator God. But the new series extends and deepens the first; this scroll is open rather than sealed, meaning that the prophet’s message will be more public.
The great angel here is similar to the one who held the sealed scroll, but is described as linking the dimensions of the cosmos, heaven. earth and sea. The message he carries is therefore of cosmic significance. Doubtless the seven thunders symbolise the ultimate judgement of God, but they are not to be communicated yet. So what is in the scroll?
We can answer that it contains the visions of chapters 12 to the end, but that only pushes the question to another level: what are these visions? My best guess is that the both the open scroll and the visions contain the gospel of Jesus. That is why the prophet must eat it before he preaches. He must be fed with the gospel and must make it part of himself before he is equipped to minister to others. For he is very bold to demand the scroll, as in chapter 5 only Jesus is fit to open it. In a sense therefore, the prophet takes Jesus’ place. And it is sweet, yes, sweet to the mouth because it tells of God’s goodness and justice in Jesus; but it is bitter when swallowed because it leads the prophet and his people into suffering, as it led Jesus.
The prophet is told that there will be no more delay after the seventh trumpet, but he is nevertheless given time to prophesy to the nations. This is a sign that his prophecies are themselves part of the fulfilment of God’s mystery. He is an agent of God’s victory over evil. This is part of the great contradiction in this book, that it speaks of a divine victory which is only achieved by the human suffering of Jesus and his followers. The open scroll is an image of this contradiction.
It is sad that this great and subtle book, which asks for careful understanding, has fallen into the hands of every bunch of pseudo-Christian head -bangers down the centuries, amongst whom the current Rapture industry is by no means the worst. The early church was slow to accord the book the status of scripture, perhaps because it feared this sort of misuse. There is also the suspicion that a church increasingly ruled by Rome found the anti- imperialism of the book a little disturbing.
Today if we allow its imagery and its narrative to work on our imaginations, it can be one of the key sources of Christian political thinking. Anyone who wants to guide the political witness of the church must first taste, consume and digest the bitter-sweet gospel of the Lamb.