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:
Verse 1. - And I saw. We have here the commencement of what many writers call an episode, or rather two episodes, which intervene between the sixth and seventh trumpets, just as Revelation 7. occurs between the sixth and seventh seals. But as in the latter place we saw only a greater elaboration in the introduction to the seventh seal, and not a detached relation, so here Revelation 10. and Revelation 11:1-14 form a gradual transition from the sixth to the seventh trumpet, and supplement what is set forth under those trumpets. The passage is so far a digression, as it is occupied chiefly in setting forth the fate of the Church rather than that of the ungodly; but it only does so to demonstrate the wickedness of the world, and the inevitable nature of the last great punishment. Revelation 9. ends (almost in a tone of surprise) with the words, "Neither repented they," etc.; therefore the angel now declares that, as all the warnings vouchsafed have brought men as a whole no nearer to God, the last final punishment must now fall. But, as if the measure of God's mercy were not yet fully filled up, it is shown how he has given to the world two witnesses, by which men might be induced to repent. But this, too, only serves to add to the condemnation of the world, which wrests this gift to its own destruction. We thus have the connection. God has sent punishments as warnings. But he not only has done this, he has also given direct instruction by the witness of his Word; man has despised both; therefore the end must come. Although the main object of the trumpet visions is to set forth the woes inflicted upon the wicked, yet the seer, as it were, hesitates to indicate the last dread punishment until he has alluded to the opportunities which God has afforded mankind of escaping that end. Another mighty angel come down from heaven; coming down out of heaven (Revised Version). So in the vision of the seals, at this point the advent of another angel ushers in the following incidents (Revelation 7:2). He is probably another angel as distinguished from the sixth angel (Revelation 9:13). There is not sufficient reason for supposing that Christ is meant. Wherever our Lord is referred to in the Revelation, it is always in a mode which cannot possibly be mistaken (cf. Revelation 1:13; Revelation 5:6, etc.). St. John's position is now upon the earth. In the vision he is either in heaven or on the earth, as required, he thus sees the angel apparently coming down from heaven. Clothed with a cloud. The symbol of majesty (cf. Exodus 16:10; Luke 21:27; Revelation 1:7, etc.). And a rainbow was upon his head, and his face was as it were the sun, and his feet as pillars of fire. Omit "was." The description shows the celestial dignity of the messenger. Perhaps there is a reference in the rainbow to the merciful character of this angel's mission, and the faithfulness and patience of God. The two last clauses express the same idea, viz. the bright and glorious appearance of the angel. God's glory is reflected in his messenger, as formerly it was in Moses (Exodus 34:29, 30).
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,
Verse 2. - And he had in his hand a little book open. Ἔχων, "having," is read in א, A, B, C, P; εἴχεν, "he had," in a few cursives, the Vulgate, Andreas, Arethas, Primasius. The meaning is the same. The word βιβλαρίδιον, "little book," is a diminutive of βιβλίον (Revelation 5:1), which is itself a diminutive of βίβλος. This form of the word is found nowhere else; the corresponding usual form is βιβλιδαρίον. The book is probably little in comparison with that in Revelation 5:1. The latter contained all God's purposes, and the seer was not permitted to read it - only part was indicated to him. This book contains only a small portion of God's methods of dealing with man, and St. John is commanded to receive the whole. The contents are indicated in ver. 11 and the following chapter. The book is open, as a sign that what is contained therein is to be revealed. Bede thinks the New Testament is signified by it; Wordsworth sees in it the spiritual power of Rome; Hengstenberg considers that it contains the judgment of the degenerate Church. And he set his right foot upon the sea, and his left foot on the earth. Thus it is indicated that the revelation which is to follow affects the whole world, and is not partial in its operation, as were the judgments set forth under the earlier trumpets. Wordsworth (following Hengstenberg) sees in the earth an emblem of worldly power, and in the sea a symbol of the agitation and turbulence of nations.
And cried with a loud voice, as when a lion roareth: and when he had cried, seven thunders uttered their voices.
Verse 3 - And cried with a loud voice, as when a lion roareth; and be cried with a great voice, as a lion roareth (Revised Version). What the angel cried we are apparently not told. Probably the whole incident is intended merely to set forth the powerful and terrible nature of the messenger who is to deliver God's message. The figure is a very common one with the prophetical writers (cf. Isaiah 42:13; Jeremiah 25:30; Hosea 11:10; Joel 3:16; Amos 1:2; Amos 3:8). And when he had cried, seven thunders uttered their voices; and when he cried, the seven, etc. (Revised Version). This, again, is a repetition of the idea contained in the preceding clause. The Jews were accustomed to call thunder the seven voices, and to regard it as the voice of the Lord (cf. the repetition in Psalm 29.), in the same way that they regarded lightning as the fire of God (Job 1:16). We have, therefore, most probably, a national idea of the Jews, made use of to express the simple fact of the loud and mighty character of the utterance of the angel (cf. the note on Euphrates in Revelation 9:14). If this be so, it is unnecessary to seek for any more subtle interpretation of the seven thunders, as that they represent the seven crusades (Vitringa), etc.
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.
Verse 4. - And when the seven thunders had uttered their voices, I was about to write; and when the seven thunders spoke, I was, etc. It seems that St. John, in his vision, thought himself to be writing down the incidents as they were displayed before him. This he supposed himself to be doing in obedience to the command in Revelation 1:11, 19. He accordingly is proceeding to do so here, when he is stopped by the angel. And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me. Omit "unto me," with א, A, B, C, P, all the versions, Andreas, Arethas, Primasius, etc. Throughout the Apocalypse we find frequent mention of a voice, without any definite statement as to the possessor. In Revelation 1:11, 12, 13; Revelation 4:1; Revelation 18:4; Revelation 21:5, 15, the voice appears to be that of Christ or God the Father. In Revelation 14:13 it may be that of Christ or an angel; in Revelation 19:9 it seems to be the angel's voice; and in Revelation 6:6 it apparently proceeds from the four living beings; while in Revelation 9:13, although the command appears to be the command of God, the locality from which the voice issues appears to bear reference to the souls of the saints, and their cry for vengeance. Here it seems best to identify the "voice from heaven" with that of Revelation 1, where it is probably Christ himself (see on Revelation 1:10). Seal up those things which the seven thunders uttered, and write them not (cf. Daniel 12:4, "But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words and seal the book, even to the time of the end;" also Acts 1:7, "It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power;" also Revelation 22:10, "And he saith unto me. Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand"). As stated in the note on ver. 2, not all God's purposes are revealed. Here we have a positive indication that some truths are withheld. It is useless to speculate on the nature of that which is purposely concealed from us. The probable conclusions which we may deduce are well put by Alford: "From the very character of thunder, that the utterances were of fearful import; from the place which they hold, that they relate to the Church; from the command to conceal them, first, encouragement, that God in his tender mercy to his own does not reveal all his terrors; secondly, godly fear, seeing that the arrows of his quiver are not exhausted, but besides things expressly foretold, there are more behind not revealed to us."
And the angel which I saw stand upon the sea and upon the earth lifted up his hand to heaven,
Verse 5. - And the angel which I saw stand upon the sea and upon the earth lifted up his hand to heaven; the right hand (Revised Version) is supported by א, B, C, P, Syriac, Coptic, AEthiopic, Armenian, Andreas, Arethas, Primasius. It is omitted in the Textus Receptus, which follows A, 1, 17, 36, Vulgate; cf. Daniel 12:7, a chapter also referred to in the preceding note (vide supra). In Daniel both hands are uplifted, here only one; in the other is the book. The action was customary among the Jews in swearing (see Genesis 14:22; Deuteronomy 32:40). (Upon the signification of "standing upon the sea and upon the earth," see on ver. 2.)
And sware by him that liveth for ever 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:
Verse 6. - And sware by him that liveth forever and ever. The Triune God (cf. Revelation 1:11; Revelation 4:10, etc.; also Deuteronomy 32:40; Psalm 45:6; Hebrews 1:8, etc.). 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. Though the balance of authority is in favour of the last clause, yet it is omitted by אָ, A, and some cursives (cf. Exodus 20:4). These two characteristics of God - his eternity and his omnipotence - are referred to in order to demonstrate the certainty of the fulfilment of the prophecy which follows. That there should be time no longer (ὅτι χρόνος οὐκέτι ἔσται); that time no longer shall be. This may be rendered:
(1) Time (a finite terminable period, as opposed to eternity) shall no longer exist, but eternity shall be entered upon.
(2) There shall be no more time, in the sense of "there shall be no longer any delay" in the infliction of the last judgment, set forth under the seventh trumpet. The solution seems to be that both meanings are implied. There seems to be a reference to the words of Revelation 6:11, to the ἔτι χρόνον μικρόν, during which the saints were to rest and await the infliction of God's wrath upon the ungodly. The visions of the first six trumpets have shown how, in the period of the world's existence, the ungodly do not escape judicial retribution. But that is not all; the force of the six judgments not having served to reduce the worldly to repentance, there can be no more delay, the last final judgment follows. But the last judgment, which follows quickly upon the other six (Revelation 11:14), is for eternity (Revelation 11:18). The advent of this woe is, therefore, simultaneous with the end of χρόνος, or "time," by which we signify that definite period, cut out of eternity, as it were, which is coeval with the existence of the world, and ceases with its destruction. The expression, therefore, implies, "The measure of God's punishments, viewed as opportunities for repentance, is exhausted; there is a limit to his endurance; the allotted time having been run, and his mercy to a large extent having been spurned, there is no more delay;" then falls the last final blow, which is at the end of "time," and at the beginning (for many) of eternity. Ebrard renders, "A space of time in which to repent" - a meaning compatible with the explanation given above. Others render, "The time of the fulfilment shall not be yet, but it shall be when the seventh trumpet sounds;" but this interpretation makes χρόνος equal καιρός. Others, again, have made χρόνος, a chronus, equal a definite number of years, and have endeavoured to compute the exact equivalent of the period (see Bengel, in loc.).
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.
Verse 7. - But in the days of the voice of the seventh angel. The meaning naturally seems to be, "There shall be no longer time; but, on the contrary, in the days of the seventh trumpet, the last judgment shall tall, the end will come, and all things will be made manifest; the mystery of God will be finished." Wordsworth renders, "No delay, save only in the days," etc., and believes that the passage points to a brief respite, during which men may yet repent. When he shall begin to sound; when he is about to sound [his trumpet]. Alford points out the propriety of the expression. "When the seventh angel does sound, the completed time of the fulfilment is simultaneous with his blowing (cf. Revelation 11:18), so that it is properly said that the fulfilment comes in the days when he is about to blow." The mystery of God should be finished; also (or then, as Revised Version) the mystery of God was fulfilled. "The prophetic past" (Wordsworth). "The mystery of God" is all that man does not now understand in connection with God's dealings with man, but of the existence of which he is cognizant, e.g. the existence of evil in the world, and God's modes of dealing with that and all mankind, which we only know in part. God's plans are being steadily and surely worked out, though we are not able to comprehend them. As he hath declared to his servants the prophets; literally, as he evangelized his servants the prophets; or, as in the Revised Version, according to the good tidings which he declared to his servants the prophets. Thus Amos 3:7, "Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets." The promise of the complete fulfilment of the mystery of God is good news indeed for the fainting Christian, for it tells of the end of his trials and the overthrow of his enemies.
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.
Verse 8. - And the voice which I heard from heaven spake unto me again, and said; and the voice which I heard out of heaven, [I heard] again talking with me and saying. The construction is irregular." The voice, viz. that mentioned in ver. 4, which is probably that of Christ himself (see on ver. 4). Go and take the little book which is open in the hand of the angel which standeth upon the sea and upon the earth; (Go, take the book, etc., according to A, C, which is adopted in the Revised Version. Little book, βιβλαρίδιον, as in ver. 2, is found in א, P, Andreas; and βιβλιδαρίον in B, Andress, Arethas. (On the signification of the "little book," see on ver. 2; and also for the meaning of the last clause, see the same place.)
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.
Verse 9. - And I went unto the angel, and said unto him, Give me the little book; and I went away to the angel, telling him to give me the little book. Alford understands that the seer goes from his position in heaven to the angel on earth. But he is probably, in his vision, already on the earth (see on ver. 1). And he said unto me, Take it, and eat it up; he saith. This part of the vision is founded on Ezekiel 2:9-3:3. The act is no doubt intended to convey the idea that the seer is to carefully receive, to digest thoroughly, as it were, his message in order to deriver it faithfully. Thus in Ezekiel 3:10 the prophet is told, "All my words that I shall speak unto thee receive in thine heart, and hear with thine ears. And go, get thee to them of the captivity, unto the children of thy people, and speak unto them," etc. And it shall make thy belly bitter, but it shall be in thy mouth sweet as honey; cf. the vision of Ezekiel 2:9-3, where the sweetness only is immediately mentioned; but the bitterness is implied later on in Ezekiel 3:14. The sweetness expresses the pleasure and readiness with which St. John receives his commission; the bitterness symbolizes the grief which possesses him when he thoroughly takes in the nature of his message. The pleasure with which he receives the angel's commands may proceed from joy at the thought that the final overthrow of the wicked is the final deliverance of the saints; or it may be that he feels himself honoured at being chosen as the medium for conveying God's message. Compare the readiness of Isaiah 6:8 to fulfil a similar office, and his subsequent fear and hesitation (Isaiah 7:4). The bitterness of the seer follows when he realizes the terrible nature of the judgment he is to announce (cf. Jeremiah 8:21, "For the hurt of the daughter of my people am I hurt"). Various other explanations, more or less allegorical, have been suggested. Thus Andreas explains that the first sweetness of sin is afterwards converted into bitterness. Origen, quoted in the 'Speaker's Commentary,' "Very sweet is this the book of Scripture when first perceived, but bitter to the conscience within." Maurice supposes that St. John's joy proceeds from the expectation that the book will announce the fall of the great Babel empire of the world, and his disappointment follows when he discovers that it predicts the fall of Jerusalem. Bede explains that the bitterness in the belly indicates the reception by the seer, but the sweetness in the mouth is the declaration to others.
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.
Verse 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 (see above). The angel, foreseeing the nature of the contents, alludes to the bitterness first; the writer narrates his experiences in the historical order.
And he said unto me, Thou must prophesy again before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings.
Verse 11. - And he said unto me. Λὲγουσιν, "they say," is read in א, A, B, and thirty cursives, and is adopted in the Revised Version. λέγει, "he saith," is found in P and seventeen cursives. Λέγουσιν leaves the speakers quite indefinite, amounting, in fact, to no more than" it was said" (Alford); cf. τρέφωσιν in Revelation 12:6; also Daniel 7:5. 13. Thou must prophesy again. Thou retest, because it is laid upon thee by God's command. It is to be done again, because the seer has already to some extent set forth God's will in the earlier part of the book; and he is now required to proceed with the delivery of his message. "Prophesy" (as in Revelation 11:3) has rather its literal than its derived meaning. It is the telling forth of God's purposes, and may refer to past as well as present or future events. The sentence refers to the announcements made in the following part of the Apocalypse (vide infra). Bede and others take it to mean the Gospel of St. John, which was, perhaps, afterwards composed (see Introduction). Victorinus thinks it points to the period of St. John's return from Patmos to Ephesus, where the Apocalypse may have been published. Before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings; concerning many peoples, etc. (ἐπί, with dative). These are the objects of the prophecy, not the audience. This serves to explain the reference in the preceding sentence. The message is not delivered to, but about peoples, etc. The fourfold enumeration seems to point to the breadth of the signification - it embraces the whole of mankind (cf. Revelation 5:9). This is the end of what is called by many writers the first episode; the second follows. The incident is often alluded to as the "new commission" of St. John; but it seems less a new commission than a solemn re-enactment of the command delivered in Revelation 1.