Revealing Revelation – The Little Book

06Feb11

After describing the angel of God who stands on both the land and sea, John introduces the reader to a little book that is in the hand of the angel. This little book is opened and John is asked to fulfill a seemingly bizarre request.

Rev. 10:8 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 and eat it; it will make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be sweet as honey.” [10] And 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] And I was told, “You must again prophesy about many peoples and nations and languages and kings.

Before addressing the bizarre request and the instruction of prophesying, we must first take a look at this little book and discover what it best represents. There are two basic ideas, though neither would change necessarily the interpretation with a preterist perspective. Let’s step back a few verses and discuss the description of the book.

In verse two we are told that the angel appears from heaven and is holding a “little” book that was opened. This quite possibly refers to the original seven sealed scroll introduced earlier in the book. The angel, identified most likely as Jesus Christ, still has the scroll in His hand. The notion that it is “open” makes the reader assume it is the same scroll which seals had been broken previously. The book is smaller, though, because much of it has been fulfilled and only a little of the judgment or indictment remains.

It could also be a different book altogether with a distinctly different purpose. The instruction to prophesy again, this time about many people, nations, languages and kings may make the reader assume this is a new book with an entirely different prophesy contained.

I have personally wavered between the two views, but have recently come to see this as the original scroll, now opened and visibly smaller as a result of the fulfilled items. The original indictment of murder, if this is the case, would first be set against the Covenantal peoples (the Jews) but Rome would not escape punishment for it’s complicity in that act. So, the judgment extends to include both Israel and Rome as represented by the “many” language used.

It is also fair to note here that God, throughout the Old Testament, would eventually judge and punish the pagan nations for their actions against His people Israel, even though He was the one orchestrating the events. The pagan nations would not escape retributions for their actions even though God would use them as instruments of His divine punishing agents.

This was true of Egypt, Babylon, Assyria and Medo-Persia as each were punished and eventually destroyed for their actions. The same, then, would be true here for Rome in it’s actions against the Church and Israel. So, the view here is that this extension does not transfer to Rome alone, but is expanded to include Rome as well as Israel.

The above also makes sense Covenantally as both partners in a “harlotous” affair would be held responsible for their actions. Old testament law required both the man and the woman to be brought forward for punishment for the acts for fornication and adultery. The later picture of Jerusalem harloting herself with Rome makes this Covenantal image more obvious as the Harlot is seen riding the Beast (Rev 17).

So, whether the book is a new one or simply the rest of the unread original scroll, there need be no change in understanding of the judgment declarations that are to follow.

This leads to the odd request from the angel to John to eat the book which would make his stomach sour, but would taste sweet to his tongue. It is only seen as odd, though, for those unfamiliar with the Old Testament. As has been mentioned several times John, in Revelation, borrows quite frequently from the Old Testament, especially the books of Daniel, Isaiah and Ezekiel. In this instance he is borrowing directly from the book of Ezekiel.

Eze 3:1 And he said to me, “Son of man, eat whatever you find here. Eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel.” 2So I opened my mouth, and he gave me this scroll to eat. 3And he said to me, “Son of man, feed your belly with this scroll that I give you and fill your stomach with it.” Then I ate it, and it was in my mouth as sweet as honey…14 The Spirit lifted me up and took me away, and I went in bitterness in the heat of my spirit, the hand of the LORD being strong upon me.

This similar language used by Ezekiel to describe events surrounding Israel’s soon coming captivity at the hands of the Babylonians, would be familiar to John’s readers in the first century. They both are describing similar events and would remind the first century reader that the events about to unfold in Jerusalem would be like those that took place hundreds of years previous.

More importantly, though, is the scroll itself in Ezekiel is similar in description to the scroll in Revelation.

Eze 2:8 “But you, son of man, hear what I say to you. Be not rebellious like that rebellious house; open your mouth and eat what I give you.” 9And when I looked, behold, a hand was stretched out to me, and behold, a scroll of a book was in it. 10And he spread it before me. And it had writing on the front and on the back, and there were written on it words of lamentation and mourning and woe.

The similarity of this scroll, which Ezekiel eats at the beginning of Chapter 3, cannot be missed. It had writing on the front and back and was opened before he was instructed to eat it. This scroll would taste sweet in his mouth, but later it would bring bitterness.

This scroll, just like the one in Revelation, would contain words of lamentation, mourning and woe. Even notice the term woe is repeated in Revelation as the last three trumpets were called the three woes. The events described would bring lamentation, mourning and woe, but, as we saw in a previous post, it would not bring repentance unto life, but rather a hardened heart and utter destruction!

Hence, why when John first learns of this judgment against Israel and Rome it is as sweet as honey on his lips. But when the realization of the mass loss of life and the horrific scenes that would play out in both Israel and Rome, the bitterness steps in. God’s judgments are true and right, but the consequences are severe and eternal.

As we will see in the following Chapters there is a shift in focus from the area of Judea as we are introduced to the Beast of Rome, his actions and it’s judgment. Israel is not left out, though, as the image of the Harlot reminds us. So, with this little scroll we see unfolding God’s judgment against the second great persecutor of the Church, His Bride, and the calamity that would befall it.

This is all introduced before the seventh and final trumpet is blown to show God’s orchestrating of the events from beginning to end and that nothing and no one is outside His jurisdiction or judgment.

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One Response to “Revealing Revelation – The Little Book”

  1. 1 Fred

    And so we have the definition of “Bitter Sweet”.
    Two sides of the same coin, so to speak.

    I hope to read of your speculations about the seven
    thunders and why they were sealed and until when!

    Revelation 10:4
    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.”

    Isaiah 29:11
    The whole vision has become to you like the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one who is literate, saying, “Read this, please.” And he says, “I cannot, for it is sealed.”

    Daniel 12:4
    “But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end;…”

    Daniel 12:9
    And he said, “Go your way, Daniel, for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end.

    Revelation 22:10
    And he said to me, “Do not seal the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is at hand.


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