Commentary on Revelation 10

Notes (NET Translation)

10:1 Then I saw another powerful angel descending from heaven, wrapped in a cloud, with a rainbow above his head; his face was like the sun and his legs were like pillars of fire.

The first powerful angel was mentioned in 5:2. The description of this angel recalls the description of Christ in 1:12-16. This mighty angel reflects some of Christ’s own glory and has come with Christ’s authority (Fee 141).

2 He held in his hand a little scroll that was open, and he put his right foot on the sea and his left on the land.

The relationship, if any, between the scroll in chapter 10 and the scroll in chapter 5 is debated. That the scroll is open indicates that its contents will become known (10:8). John stresses that this angel stands astride sea and land (10:2, 5, 8). In 13:1, 11 two beasts appear, one from the sea and one from the land. Since 10:6 stresses God as Creator, the position of this angel also stresses that God, not the Empire, is ultimately in control of everything.

3 Then he shouted in a loud voice like a lion roaring, and when he shouted, the seven thunders sounded their voices.

The thunders are to be viewed as metaphors for declarations of a heavenly being or beings. This is apparent from 6:1, where the command of the “living creature” is called ὡς φωνὴ βροντῆς (“like a voice [sound] of thunder”), and the same phrase in 19:6a is used of the heavenly host’s praise, which is verbalized in 19:6b–8. Likewise the “voice from heaven” in John 12:28–29 is referred to both as “thunder” and as an angel’s voice. (Beale 533)

Elsewhere in Revelation thunder is associated with divine retribution (6:1; 8:5; 11:19; 16:18).

4 When the seven thunders spoke, I was preparing to write, but just then I heard a voice from heaven say, “Seal up what the seven thunders spoke and do not write it down.”

John was obeying the command to write down the contents of his vision (1:11, 19). There is no point speculating what the seven thunders spoke. G. K. Beale writes (534): “The point could be that, despite God’s disclosures throughout the Apocalyse, the totality of his plans will still remain hidden from humanity until the end of history.”

5 Then the angel I saw standing on the sea and on the land raised his right hand to heaven 6 and swore by the one who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and what is in it, and 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 about to blow his trumpet, the mystery of God is completed, just as he has proclaimed to his servants the prophets.”

The oath given by the angel alludes to Daniel 12:7. The oath stresses that God is sovereign over all things and created all things. The phrase “his servants the prophets” points back to the Old Testament prophets. But 10:11 clearly indicates that John is also a prophet. Therefore, 10:7 may be referring to all God’s prophets regardless of time period.

All of this together makes it clear that this is not a signal that the End is immediate. Rather, it is a signal that “the mystery of God is to be accomplished” before that final moment happens; but in the meantime there must be further prophetic activity. Although one cannot be certain here, the “mystery of God” most likely points directly to the climax in 11:15–18, where God’s purposes with creation in general and humanity in particular are brought to completion with the sounding of the seventh trumpet. So why, one might rightly ask, include here still one more anticipatory moment in what itself is only an interlude vision? The most likely answer is precisely because it does occur in the interlude, where John pauses to remind his readers that their own ordeal is not in fact nearly over. John himself has much more prophesying to do, and the church has much more witnessing to do, which is precisely how this middle paragraph leads the reader into the main point of the whole scene—verses 8–11. (Fee 144)

8 Then the voice I had heard from heaven began to speak to me again, “Go and take the open scroll in the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land.” 9 So I went to the angel and asked him to give me the little scroll. He said to me, “Take the scroll and eat it. It will make your stomach bitter, but it will be as sweet as honey in your mouth.” 10 So I took the little scroll from the angel’s hand and ate it, and it did taste as sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it, my stomach became bitter.

This episode echoes Ezek 2:1-3:3 (cf. Jer 15:16-17). Consuming the scroll signifies the passing on of revelation to the prophet. The scroll is sweet because it is the word of God’s salvation, but it is bitter because it foretells suffering for the believer and judgment for the unbeliever.

11 Then they told me: “You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, languages, and kings.”

John is recommissioned to prophesy (cf. 1:11, 19; 4:1). The Greek word translated “about” can also mean “against”. To a large degree, John will prophesy against sinners.

Here is the only occurrence of this phrase which explicitly mentions kings. But standing before kings and rulers is an expected eschatological role for God’s faithful ones (e.g. Mk 13:9 and par.), and particularly appropriate for one who is to prophesy on behalf of Christ, the ‘ruler of earth’s kings’ (1:5). Moreover, ‘earth’s kings’ will play an increasingly prominent role in the remaining visions of this book, as the visionary onslaught on Christ’s people gains momentum (e.g. 16:14; 17:2, 18; 18:3, 9; 19:19; but note their hopeful transformation at 21:24). (Boxall 158)


Beale, G. K. The Book of Revelation. New International Greek Testament Commentary. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1998.

Boxall, Ian. Revelation of Saint John, The. Black’s New Testament Commentary. Baker Academic, 2009.

Fee, Gordon D. Revelation. Kindle ed. New Covenant Commentary Series. Cascade Books, 2010.

Mounce, Robert H. The Book of Revelation. Revised. The New International Commentary on the New Testament. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2010.

Osborne, G. R. Revelation. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2002.


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