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Little Scroll, Sealed Scroll, Seven Trumpets

The Little Scroll – (Rev 10:1–11)

The last plague failed to produce repentance by the “inhabitants of the earth”; their hearts are now harder than ever.  Something else is needed to complete “the mystery of God.” The rest of the “second woe” is concerned with this new direction.

Rather than another plague, John sees “another angel” who commissions him to prophesy to the nations and kings of the earth. This results in the measuring of the Sanctuary, the ministry of the Two Witnesses, and leads into the seventh seal.

The “little scroll” is fully “opened” so that its contents can be implemented. The judgments of the first six trumpets were based not on the contents of the sealed scroll, but on the plagues of ancient Egypt described in the book of Exodus.

(Revelation 10:1-7) – “And I saw another angel, a mighty one, descending out of heaven arrayed with a cloud; and the rainbow was upon his head, and his face was as the sun, and his feet as pillars of fire; and he had in his hand a little scroll opened: and he set his right foot upon the sea, and his left upon the earth; and he cried with a great voice, as a lion roars, and when he cried the seven thunders uttered their voices. And when the seven thunders uttered their voices, I was about to write: and I heard a voice from heaven saying, Seal up the things which the seven thunders uttered, and write them not. And the angel that I saw standing upon the sea and upon the earth lifted up his right hand to heaven, and swore by him that lives forever, who created the heaven and the things that are in it, and the earth and the things that are in it, and the sea and the things that are in it, that there shall be delay no longer. But in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he is going to sound, then is finished the mystery of God, according to the good tidings which he declared to his servants the prophets.”

This mighty angel is called “another” one (allos) to distinguish him from the seven angels that sounded the trumpets. HIs description uses terms from John’s first vision of the Son of Man with “feet like burnished brass, a voice like many waters and his countenance like the sun” (1:15-16). This angel also has a rainbow over his head reminiscent of the “rainbow round about the throne” (4:3-4).

This angel is linked to Jesus, the divine throne and the sealed scroll. He is the same “mighty angel” seen earlier who proclaimed, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose its seals” (5:1-2). Only the Lamb was worthy to break the seals and “to open” (anoigō) the scroll, which he began to do upon his arrival at the throne (5:5-12).

The mighty angel holds a “little scroll” already “opened” (anoigō). “Little scroll” translates biblaridion, the diminutive form of “scroll” or biblion. The latter is the same Greek noun rendered “scroll” in chapter 5 for the sealed scroll. This “little scroll” is also called the “scroll” or biblion in verse 8 (“take the scroll opened in the hand of the angel”). This indicates the “little scroll” is the same as the sealed scroll from chapter 5, though it is no longer sealed and is now fully “opened.”

Possibly the scroll is “little” in comparison to the angel who holds it. This is a mighty angel able to straddle land and sea.  Presumably, in the vision, he appears quite large.

The picture draws on Daniel 12:5-9, a vision of two angelic figures standing on either side of the Tigris River. One of them asks, “How long shall it be to the end of these wonders?” The “man clothed with linen” from Daniel 10:5-6 is standing “upon the waters of the river” where he raises his right hand to swear by him who lives forever. He answers, “For a set time and times and a half, when the dispersion of a part of the holy people is brought to an end, then will come to an end all these things.” Daniel does not understand and is told these words are “closed and sealed until the time of the end.”

In John’s vision, the “scroll” lies on the angel’s hand fully “opened.” The seven seals have been broken. In contrast to the scroll Daniel saw, this one is no longer closed or sealed.

The mighty angel roars like a lion and “seven thunders utter their voices.” John is about to write down their words but is commanded not to do so. In contrast to the contents of the scroll, the words of the seven thunders are “sealed.” The problem is that nowhere in Revelation is a sevenfold series of thunders described. What did these voices say and why was John not allowed to record what he heard?

At the start of the seven trumpets, John saw “another” (allos) angel who took fire from the “golden altar” and hurled it onto the earth, unleashing “thunders, voices, flashes of lightning and an earthquake” (8:2-6). “Another” distinguishes that angel from the seven angels with the trumpets.

The “golden altar” appeared again when the sixth trumpet sounded, the “second woe,” and from the midst of its four horns, a voice commanded the sixth angel to release the four angels from the Euphrates.  This voice almost certainly was that of the angel who hurled fire onto the earth, “another angel.”

The first trumpet released “hail and fire mingled with blood” upon the earth, an image based on the plague of hail from Exodus 9:23-24 (“Yahweh sent thunder and hail, and fire ran down unto the earth, and Yahweh rained hail upon the land of Egypt. So there was hail, and fire mingled with the hail”).

Based on events so far, a plague featuring thunder is the expected next step in response to the refusal of the earth’s inhabitants to repent after the first six plagues. But their refusal demonstrates another approach is necessary, therefore the series of plagues ceases at this point. In Daniel 10:5-9 the prophetic scroll was closed and sealed, yet now it is the judgments of the thunders that are sealed closed.

In contrast, the arrival of the “opened” scroll means “there will be delay no longer.” The time is at hand to finish the “mystery of God,” just as soon as the seventh trumpet sounds (11:15-19). This is according to the “glad-tidings announced to His servants, the prophets.” “Announced glad-tidings” translates the Greek verb euaggelizo, which is closely related to the noun from which we derive “gospel” or “glad tidings.”

Delay” or “time” translates the Greek noun kronos. This statement answers the question of the martyred souls under the altar in the fifth seal (6:9-11). The martyrs asked how long it would be before God judged the inhabitants of the earth. They were told to rest “yet for a little time” (kronos) until the full number of martyrs was “completed.” That time has now arrived, to gather in the full number of witnesses and complete the mystery of God.

His servants, the prophets.” Elsewhere “servants” refers to the Christians of Asia and to followers of Jesus in general (1:12:207:3). Here “the prophets” is in apposition to “his servants” and further identifies them. This exact phrase occurs only once more in Revelation and is a verbal link to this passage. The last trumpet signals the time of wrath and final judgment when “the dead are judged and that you should reward your servants, the prophets” (11:18).

(Revelation 10:8-11) – “And the voice which I heard out of heaven I again heard talking with me; and saying, Go, take the opened scroll in the hand of the angel who is standing upon the sea and upon the land. And I went away to the angel, asking him to give me the little scroll; and he says to me, Take it and consume it, and it will embitter your belly, but in your mouth will be sweet as honey. And I took the little scroll out of the hand of the angel, and consumed it; and it was in my mouth as honey, sweet, and when I had eaten it embittered was my belly. And they say to me, You must again prophesy over peoples and nations and tongues, and many kings.

The heavenly voice now commands John to take the opened scroll from the mighty angel and to devour it. The angel warns him that it will be sweet like honey but embitter his belly. John is told he must yet “prophesy over peoples and nations and tongues, and many kings.” The scroll is bitter. It contains both promises and suffering for the witnesses.

The passage alludes to Ezekiel who was told to eat a roll that found sweet as honey in his mouth. In Ezekiel’s case, there is no mention of bitterness (Ezekiel 3:1-4). Ezekiel was told to “go speak to the house of Israel” after consuming this roll, whereas John is now told to prophesy to nations and kings.

The clause “peoples and nations and tongues” is common in Revelation (5:9; 7:9; 11:9; 14:6; 17:15). However, the voice now adds “kings” to the list, presumably, the same group elsewhere labeled “kings of the earth” (16:12-14; 17:2; 17:14-15; 18:9; 19:18).

While this group is most often hostile to the Lamb, Revelation in its prologue declared that Jesus already is “ruler of the kings of the earth” (1:5), later names him “king of kings” (19:16), and portrays this group in New Jerusalem at the end (21:24). Thus, it makes good sense that “kings” are among the groups to which John is tasked to prophesy.

John is told he must “prophesy.” This Greek verb occurs only once more in Revelation 11:3 when applied to the two witnesses empowered to prophesy “a thousand two hundred and sixty days clothed in sackcloth.” That will be in fulfillment of the commission given to John after he devoured the little scroll.

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