Text: Rev 10:1-11
OT Scripture: Ezekiel 2:9-3:9
Feature Verse: Rev 10:11 "And I was told, 'You must again prophesy about many peoples and nations and languages and kings."
Main Idea: John is commissioned to give another set of prophecies. Similar to the OT prophet Ezekiel, he is given (in a vision) a scroll to eat which he will pass along in a series of seven visions.
We have seen that the seven seals and the seven trumpets had many parallels. In this section we see another similarity. In between the sixth and seventh seals there was an interlude that showed the sealing of God's people for protection in the midst of the various plagues. In a similar manner, chapters 10-11 appear to form an interlude between the sixth and seventh trumpet. In the second chapter of the interlude (chap 11), the church's witness is shown to be protected through the measuring of the temple (more on that tomorrow.)
In the first part of the interlude we are also introduced to a new series of events. John sees a mighty angel coming down from heaven with a scroll in his hand (10.1). He hears seven thunders sound (10:3) but he is told not to write down the prophecy of the seven thunders. Instead, he is given a scroll to eat, which will enable him to bring a new series of prophecies (10:11). So, what is this all about?
It may seem weird for a prophet to eat a scroll, but that is how the prophecy of Ezekiel was introduced in the OT (Ez 2-3.) This is a picture of internalizing God's word. John takes it in, then shares it with his churches. Of course, all of this is part of the vision, I don't think we are meant to understand this as literally eating a scroll. Because the the seven thunders are not written down, it seems that the scroll contains prophecies that are in place of the seven thunders.
It appears that the expected pattern has been interrupted. If we look back at the seven seals and the seven trumpets, then take a peak forward at the upcoming seven bowls of wrath (chaps 15-16), a pattern emerges.
- Seven Seals effect 1/4 of the people.
- Seven Trumpets effect 1/3 of the earth.
- [Seven Thunders not recorded, but we would expect them to impact 1/2]
- Seven Bowls effect all of the world or 1/1.
In place of the seven thunders, we are given a different set of pictures. It seems that the scroll that John eats - instead of recording the seven thunders - leads to a series of visions. These visions, which come after the seventh trumpet, show the conflict between Satan and the church and the final victory of Christ over the forces of evil. (More on that in chaps 12-14.)
Summary and Application
1.) Like many other parts of the Bible reading and internalizing God's word is often described as feeding on the word. Jesus himself said that we cannot live on bread alone, but that we need to eat the word of God for spiritual health (Matt 4:4.) Our interaction with God's word needs to be more than just glancing over the words. We need to internalize the message, take it into ourselves and let it change us.
2.) The world-wide scope of the gospel is again affirmed. Ezekiel ate a scroll and had a message for the people of Israel (Ez 2-3.) But, John's message will be more expansive, it is for "many peoples and nations and languages and kings." (10:11)
3.) We don't know why the seven thunders were "sealed up" and replaced by this new scroll and the seven visions which will unfold very shortly. But, many scholars see those seven visions (chaps 12-14) as being the real heart of the book. In these sections, the witness of the church will withstand the onslaught of Satan. Perhaps this is the solution to the closing words of yesterday's text. After the seven seals and six trumpets the people still "did not repent." (9:20-21). In the next series of visions, we will see the faithful witness of the church in the face of persecution. Perhaps it was decided that what we most need to see is not another series of judgments (if indeed the seven thunders were similar judgments effecting 1/2 of the world.) Rather, we need to see God sustain his people for faithful witness even as the world around them brings crushing pressure and the devil himself wars against them. That is what we will see in the coming chapters. May it bring hope in the midst of conflict.