GOD CONTROLS THE DISSEMINATION OF HIS REVELATION OF END TIME EVENTS AND GUARANTEES FULFILLMENT AS IT IS ASSIMILATED AND PROCLAIMED
Buist Fanning: The initial vision (10:1–11) of this interlude before the seventh trumpet comes in two related sections. First, in vv. 1–7 John sees and hears a powerful angel holding a little scroll, whose roar in heaven finds a response from “seven peals of thunder.” As in 5:4 John reacts to the events of the vision, in this case by starting to record what he has heard, but he is distinctly forbidden to do so (vv. 1–4). Then the mighty angel solemnly affirms that the events of the seventh trumpet will bring without delay the completion of what God has revealed through his prophets (vv. 5–7). In the second section, John is pulled into the vision even more directly by being told to take the little scroll from the mighty angel’s hand and eat it (vv. 8–9). He finds it a mixed experience and is told that it represents his divine commission to prophesy further about the peoples of the world (vv. 10–11).
Main Idea: The series of judgments seen in John’s visions signal the imminent fulfillment of what God has revealed about the world’s future through prophets like John whom he has commissioned.
Robert Mounce: With the close of chapter 9 six of the seven trumpets have sounded. Once again we encounter an interlude of two related visions—the angel with the little book (10:1–11) and the two witnesses (11:1–13). These interludes are not so much pauses in a sequence of events as they are literary devices by which the church is instructed concerning its role and destiny during the final period of world history. There will be no corresponding interlude between the sixth and seventh bowl judgments (the final series yet to come) because at that time all warning and preliminary judgment will be over. When the bowls of divine wrath are poured out, the consummation moves quickly to its climax.
Kendell Easley: Although God has hidden some of the future from us, a mighty angel reveals that the sounding of the seventh trumpet will bring about the full completion of his plan. God’s word is both sweet and bitter to those for whom he gives it.
Daniel Akin: God’s hidden plan will be completed (10:8). You can trust Him to finish things in His time and in His way. You can be confident in His purposes, so keep on proclaiming the gospel among “many peoples, nations, languages, and kings” (10:11).
S. Lewis Johnson: Now in chapter 10 . . . we are in another interlude. This interlude, between the sixth and seventh trumpet, perhaps to introduce the heralds of the Second Advent, the two witnesses of whom we shall study and read in our next study. It’s rather interesting, I think, that when the Lord Jesus came, John the Baptist began his ministry as the ambassador of the king. It was his duty to announce the coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And of course, our Lord came and John was his ambassador. Now in the Second Advent of our Lord, it appears that there will also be ambassadors. In this case, two ambassadors, and those witnesses of our Lord’s ministry to come, are called in the very next chapter, part of this particular chapter incidentally, the two witnesses. So, we are in an interlude. We are leading up to the testimony of the two witnesses who shall testify before our Lord’s Second Advent. . .
Well, the preparation has now been made for the completion of the mystery of God, and in chapter 16 we will read the words, “And it is done.” Further unfolding of the trumpet judgment will issue in the seven bowl judgments and details in connection with it. Our preparation ought to be made for escape from that bitter judgment. Two immutable things proclaim the end: the promise of God, and the oath of God. And the very fact that this angel swears, and the very fact that God in the word of God gives his own oath with reference to the fulfillment of his word should indicate to us that it is sure to come to pass. We’ve suffered many delays. There have been many delays that others have suffered. Other events may occur, it may not be next week that this great program begins to come to its consolation, but those things don’t drive us into the ranks of the scoffers. The great day of consummation is sure to come.
I. (:1-4) DIVINE REVELATION REMAINS UNDER GOD’S CONTROL
A. (:1) Angelic Agent of Divine Revelation
- Mighty Angel from Heaven
“And I saw another strong angel coming down out of heaven,”
Buist Fanning: The initial protagonist in the story is “another angel, a mighty one” (ἄλλον ἄγγελον ἰσχυρόν; v. 1a–b), who is thus distinguished from the angel with the sixth trumpet as well as the four angels who released the hordes of judgment in the previous vision (9:13–15). The added trait, “mighty,”1 begins a series of impressive descriptions that show his heavenly credentials for the role he will play in the vision. He descends “from heaven” as God’s emissary (cf. 18:1; 20:1). The other features in v. 1 reinforce the heavenly splendor of this one who comes to carry out the divine will on earth.
Robert Mounce: Some commentators have taken the mighty angel to be Christ. The phrases by which he is described are elsewhere used of deity. He is robed in a cloud (cf. Ps 104:3), there is a rainbow above his head (cf. Rev 4:3), his face is like the sun (cf. Rev 1:16), and his legs are like fiery pillars (cf. Exod 13:21–22). This identification is rejected by most scholars because in the Apocalypse Christ never elsewhere appears as an angel. In v. 6 the angel supports his declaration of no more delay by taking an oath—highly inappropriate for Christ. Others, arguing on the basis of a rather clear parallel with Dan 12:7, take the angel to be Gabriel (cf. Dan 8:16).
Sola Scriptura: Based on Revelation 5:2; 10:1 and 18:21, strong angels are revelatory angels. That is, they specifically communicate to man information from God. In Revelation 5:2, the strong angel communicates the identity of the person worthy to open the sealed scroll. In Revelation 10:1, he communicates a significant transition in the program of God. In Revelation 18:21, he communicates the destiny of the capital city of the beast empire. Similarly, an angelic being in Daniel 10 communicates the destiny of the Jews and Jerusalem.
- Majestic Description of This Mighty Angel
a. “clothed with a cloud;”
Grant Osborne: In the OT God appears in a cloud as the sign of his “glory” (Exod. 16:10; Lev. 16:2; 1 Kings 8:10; Ezek. 10:4), and the angel as his representative also “wears” a cloud as a sign of God’s presence and of eschatological glory.
b. “and the rainbow was upon his head,”
Daniel Akin: “A rainbow over his head” is a sign of God’s covenant faithfulness. It echoes the story of Noah and the flood. It adorned his head like a crown (Gen 9:12-16; Ezek 1:26-28; Rev 4:3). MacArthur notes, “While the cloud symbolizes judgment, the rainbow represents God’s covenant mercy in the midst of judgment (as it did in 4:3)” (MacArthur, Revelation 1–11, 280).
c. “and his face was like the sun,”
Daniel Akin: The angel’s “face was like the sun,” brilliant and radiant, for he had been in the presence of God. As a result, he is an awesome reflection of the Lord. “His legs were like fiery pillars,” a picture of stability and uncompromising holiness. And with a possible background in the exodus wanderings, ideas of guidance, protection, and deliverance are lurking about (Osborne, Revelation, 394).
d. “and his feet like pillars of fire;”
Kendell Easley: Several aspects of this majestic being’s clothing and appearance point us to other parts of Scripture.…
- robed in a cloud suggests the cloud of God’s own glorious presence ( 16:10; Luke 9:34).
- a rainbow above his head perhaps like a multicolored turban reminds us of the rainbow around the heavenly throne ( 4:3).
- face was like the sun as had been the face of Christ as he first appeared to John in Revelation 1:16.
- legs were like fiery pillars like the fiery pillar that accompanied the Israelites out of Egypt (Exod. 13:21).
- right foot on the sea and left foot on the land, suggesting further the colossal size of this creature.
B. (:2a) Additional Little Scroll of Divine Revelation
“and he had in his hand a little book which was open.”
Buist Fanning: The word for “little scroll” (βιβλαρίδιον) used in 10:2, 9, 10 is different from “scroll” (βιβλίον) used six times in 5:1–8, but βιβλίον also appears as a synonym for βιβλαρίδιον here in 10:8, and the meaning of the two is close enough to allow for both to point to the same referent. It makes more sense overall to see this “little scroll” as a reappearance of the same “scroll” from chapter 5, now “lying open” after its seals have been broken. It comes back on the scene as part of the transition between the beginning judgments of 6:1–9:21 and the culminating judgments that follow (11:15ff.) when “the mystery of God will be completed” (10:7).
Robert Mounce: we will maintain that the second vision of the interlude (11:1–13) constitutes the contents of the little scroll. That being so, the two scrolls of Revelation cannot be the same. The scroll of destiny begins with the seals and continues to the end of the Apocalypse. Within that larger scope the little scroll deals with the lot of God’s people during the final days prior to the end.
Grant Osborne: the scroll was sealed in the right hand of God in chapter 5, progressively opened as the Lamb “opened” the seals in chapter 6, and now lies open in the hand of the mighty angel in chapter 10. It too tells the divine plan for the end of the age, and now John is to be shown how that plan relates to the saints that are still on earth. By using the imagery of the scroll closed in the hand of God, opened by the Lamb, and now open in the hand of the mighty angel, John is expanding the vision of Ezekiel’s call to relate his own prophetic call. Nevertheless, the choice of βιβλαρίδιον here was probably quite deliberate, and thus it does carry some diminutive force (Aune 1998a: 558 calls it “a true diminutive” because it is the diminutive of βιβλίον, already a diminutive in form). There is identity between the two scrolls but not absolute unity (so also Michaels 1997: 133–34; Beale 1999: 530–32). The scroll here is a “small” portion of the whole scroll containing the plan of God for ending this present evil world and introducing the “new heavens and new earth,” and depicting the place of the church in these events.
C. (:2b-3) Authoritative and Powerful Divine Revelation
- (:2b) Dramatic Worldwide Dominion
“And he placed his right foot on the sea and his left on the land;”
Robert Mounce: This dramatic appearance of an authoritative figure from heaven stands in marked contrast to the immediately preceding tableau of humanity’s rebellious idolatry and immorality (9:20–21).
Grant Osborne: By having one foot on the land and the other on the sea, John was stressing the dominion of the angel over the whole world and the significance of the message in the scroll for all the world. Throughout the biblical period, a conqueror would place his foot on the conquered land to signify possession of that land. Moreover, that these feet/legs are “like fiery pillars” (10:1) stresses both deliverance for the believers and judgment for the unbelievers.
Van Parunak: These are the places from which the two beasts come (13:1, 11). Like the allusion to Babylon from Daniel 4 and the references to “the beast … out of the bottomless pit” (11:7) and “the great city” (11:8) in the next chapter, they are preparing us for the historical review and final judgments in chapters 12-19. Setting one’s foot upon an adversary symbolizes dominion over the adversary.
- (:3) Dramatic Powerful Voice and Divine Response
a. Dramatic Voice
“and he cried out with a loud voice, as when a lion roars;”
b. Divine Response
“and when he had cried out,
the seven peals of thunder uttered their voices.”
Buist Fanning: Taking an imposing stance that represents the cosmic reach of what he has come to reveal (vv. 6–7), the angel straddles both sea and land (v. 2b). In vv. 1–2 as well as in v. 5 this picture encompasses all three of the commonly cited realms of God’s created universe: heaven, earth or land, and sea (v. 6; cf. 5:13; 14:7; see other biblical texts cited at v. 6 below); this angel’s actions will have cosmic significance. In this dramatic pose the angel then utters a loud cry “like a lion roars,” apparently to garner attention for what he will declare in vv. 6c–7. But the angel’s cry prompts a response from “the seven thunders,” creating a short diversion in the storyline (vv. 3b–4). It is not clear who these “seven thunders” are who reply “with their own voices” to the loud voice of the mighty angel. John presents them as familiar to his readers (the seven thunders), but no ancient sources give evidence of well-known phenomena like this. This may represent seven angels who interact from heaven with the mighty angel (cf. 7:2–3; 14:17–18, where angelic interaction is portrayed in John’s visions; see also John 12:29). It could be a reference to the fullness of God’s voice (like “the seven spirits of God” denoting the Holy Spirit in Rev 1:4; 5:6). Psalm 29:3–9 (where “the voice of the LORD” is mentioned seven times and portrayed as a rainstorm “thundering” over the earth) could be a source for such an idea.
Robert Mounce: The voice from heaven could be that of God or Christ (cf. 14:13; 18:4). In any case a voice from heaven would be a voice of authority (cf. 2 Esdr 6:17).
J. Hampton Keathley, III: Thunder is a symbol of judgment but also of revelation. It reminds us God has revealed Himself in history to man, first in creation and then in various ways through special revelation, i.e., through the holy Scriptures and through the Son. Thunder is portrayed as the voice of the Lord seven times in Psalm 29:3-9. The idea is that thunderstorms are a reminder to man that he should ascribe glory and strength to God and worship God as the Creator King of this world. In Revelation 10, the thunder is heard in a most electrifying message that John was both able to hear and understand.
D. (:4) Authorization to Communicate Divine Revelation Denied
- Prepared to Communicate
“And when the seven peals of thunder had spoken, I was about to write;”
- Prohibited from Communicating
“and I heard a voice from heaven saying, ‘Seal up the things which the seven peals of thunder have spoken, and do not write them.’”
Buist Fanning: The things the thunders have said should remain inaccessible. Though he has not even written them yet, they are to be sealed off in John’s mind only and not written down for others to read. So the things John heard are divine secrets, never to be made known more widely (cf. 2 Cor 12:4). We can still wonder what purpose is served for John (under inspiration) to record this part of the vision that tantalizes the reader with heavenly secrets only to withhold them in the end. Why not just omit this portion of the vision? One suggestion is that it is an overt reminder that God’s counsel has depths that humans will never see or understand. Prior to its fulfillment—and even after—the details of God’s purposes that he has chosen to reveal through his prophets will always be a partial glimpse of his plan and seen only “through a glass darkly” (1 Cor 13:12). It is always a salutary thing for proud humans to be reminded of their limitations and to leave some matters to a trustworthy God.
Grant Osborne: John is being told to affirm God’s sovereign control over the judgments proclaimed in the thunders and then is prohibited from revealing the contents to his readers. The major message is one of sovereignty. God is in control, and the saints do not need to know all the details.
II. (:5-7) DIVINE REVELATION GUARANTEES NO MORE DELAY IN CARRYING OUT END TIMES AGENDA
A. (:5-6a) Trustworthiness of God’s Revelation
- (:5a) Special Messenger Bears Witness
“And the angel whom I saw standing on the sea and on the land”
Kendell Easley: What impressed John most about the mighty angel was that he stood both on the sea and on the land, for he tells us this three times (verses 3, 5, 8).
William Barclay: This shows his size and power, for sea and land stand for the sum total of the universe. It also shows that the power of God stands as firm on the sea as it does on the land.
- (:5b-6a) Swearing an Oath of Divine Guarantee
a. (:5b) Raising of the Right Hand in God’s Presence
“lifted up his right hand to heaven,”
Richard Phillips: As a witness authorized to swear by God, the angel not only brings God’s Word but also testifies to the certainty of its fulfillment.
b. (:6) Ratifying the Oath by God’s Nature and Dominion
1) By God’s Eternal Nature
“and swore by Him who lives forever and ever,”
Kendell Easley: For all the martyrs who must pass through violent death for Christ’s sake, there is great comfort in knowing that their God is alive forever.
Grant Osborne: The eternality of God is a major basis for the finality of his proclamations. In this context, where the theme is the end of all earthly things (as also in Dan. 12), it is important to realize that the God of eternity is in control.
2) By God’s Dominion by Virtue of Creation
“who created heaven and the things in it,
and the earth and the things in it,
and the sea and the things in it,”
Grant Osborne: The God who created the universe is the God who will end it, in keeping with his title as “the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end” (1:8; 21:6). All three spheres of life in this world are stressed: the heavens, the earth, and the sea. Moreover, with each sphere God is seen as creator of τὰ ἐν αὐτῇ (ta en autē, the things in it), meaning that God is creator and sovereign over every single thing in this world. In 10:1–2 the mighty angel descended from “heaven,” then placed one foot on “the sea” and the other foot on “the land,” indicating God’s dominion over all that is in this world. Now we see also that he created all that is in each of these spheres. Bauckham (1993b: 253–54) observes that the threefold division of 10:5 (sea, land, heaven) is reversed in 10:6 (heaven, land, sea). This links the angel who comes from heaven and stands astride land and sea with the God who created all three.
B. (:6b-7) Timetable and Fulfillment of God’s End Times Agenda
- (:6b) God’s End Times Agenda Will Be Delayed No Longer
“that there shall be delay no longer,”
Robert Mounce: The announcement of no further delay would come as welcome news. The martyrs under the altar (6:9–12) had been told to rest a while until the full number of their fellow servants and brothers and sisters should be put to death. The seven thunders would have involved yet another delay had they not been canceled. Now nothing stands in the way of the final dramatic period of human history.
- (:7) God’s End Time Agenda Will Be Completely Fulfilled
“but in the days of the voice of the seventh angel,
when he is about to sound,
then the mystery of God is finished, as He preached to His servants the prophets.”
John MacArthur: The phrase but in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound indicates that the judgment of the seventh trumpet is about to come and that it is not a single event, but covers days–indicating a period of time. This period includes the seven bowl judgments (16:1–21), which would appear to require some weeks or months to unfold. So the sounding of the seventh trumpet brings the final judgment depicted in the bowls of fury poured out on the earth. The time of God’s patience is seen as having ended; the time for the final acts of judgment is seen as being at hand. The time anticipated in the disciples’ questions recorded in Matthew 24:3 and Acts 1:6 has come. The prayers of all the saints of all the ages for the consummation of God’s kingdom are about to be answered (cf. 6:9–11; Matt. 6:9–10). When the seventh angel sounds, “The kingdom of the world [will] become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever”(11:15).
Buist Fanning: The main content of the vision, in terms of its relevance for the sequence of the seven trumpets, is presented in the angel’s solemn declaration about the completion of God’s purposes without further delay (vv. 6–7). His declaration is recorded in terms drawn closely from Daniel 12:5–13. The angel’s dramatic oath by the God “who lives forever” and affirmed with hand raised “toward heaven” mirrors Daniel 12:7 almost exactly (see also Gen 14:22; Deut 32:40). Here the gravity of “swearing” by the living God is increased from Daniel’s oath formula by adding the threefold description of God’s creative work in heaven, earth, and sea (Rev 10:6b) commonly found in the Old Testament (e.g., Gen 1:26; Exod 20:11; Neh 9:6; Ps 146:6; Jonah 1:9; cf. Acts 4:24; 14:15). The angel’s announcement must certainly be taken as an ironclad declaration of God’s truth and its significance for John’s portrayal of coming events duly noted. The seventh trumpet (and the seven bowls associated with it) will bring cataclysmic changes for the world.
Kendell Easley: The verb phrase “about to sound” represents the Greek precisely. In the dialect of the American South that I grew up with, this would be translated “‘fixin’ to sound his trumpet.” In other words, there will be no delay once the events of the six trumpets have occurred. The seventh trumpet will end everything (11:15–18). . .
Thus, with the blowing of the seventh trumpet God’s final defeat of evil will be fulfilled. Then at last God’s ultimate purpose in human history will be realized (11:15). The verb will be accomplished can also be translated, “will be finished” (a form of the verb Jesus used at his crucifixion, “It is finished,” John 19:30).
The verb announced is the usual NT verb for “tell the gospel” or “tell good news.” In this instance the good news is about God’s complete defeat of wickedness and his judgment on sin.
Van Parunak: We usually think of the gospel as announcing deliverance from judgment through faith in the Lord Jesus. This gospel is the destruction of the kingdom of Antichrist, and the vindication of his saints. The good news is not just that God in his mercy has provided salvation for his people, but also that God in his righteousness will bring judgment on the wicked. This has been promised ever since Gen 3:15, when God promised to crush the head of the serpent. The destruction of God’s enemies and the triumph of his kingdom is the message of all the prophets, and it is good news.
Sola Scriptura: We argue that the “mystery of God” is God’s special work in Jesus Christ to bring many Gentiles to glory. This effort on the part of God concludes or is finished just prior to the sounding of the seventh and final trumpet.
This by definition necessitates that God’s special work in Jesus Christ to bring Gentiles to glory does not conclude with the Rapture. This is easily proven given that the beheaded martyrs of Revelation 20:4 who are resurrected in close proximity to the beginning of the millennial reign of Christ reign with Him for 1000 years. Paul states in 2 Timothy 2:12, “If we endure, we will also reign with Him. . .” To reign with Christ in His temporal kingdom is a privilege shared by those who are saved (particularly Gentiles) during this present age. That the beheaded martyrs refer to Gentiles and not Jews can be discerned from the fact that the woman (Israel) is put in protective custody for three and a half years (Rev 12:6, 14). The beheaded martyrs are those who resisted the mark and the worship of Antichrist (Rev 20:4), but held to the testimony of Jesus. Since they are resurrected near the beginning of the millennium, they must have died after the Rapture, else they would have been taken at the Rapture.
III. (:8-11) DIVINE REVELATION CAN BE BOTH BITTER AND SWEET AS IT IS ASSIMILATED AND PROCLAIMED
Kendell Easley: John ate the glorious angel’s small scroll, a message both sweet and sour for the churches, for the people of God must suffer further before the end comes.
Daniel Akin: These verses are the most applicable and practical in this passage of Scripture. They have a clear relevance for every generation of believers and followers of the Lamb. The imagery is striking, and the meaning is self-evident. The “little scroll” of verse 2 reappears and takes center stage. It is mentioned three times in verses 8-10. God’s Word comes with authority. Its promises and prophecies are certain to be fulfilled. However, it is of little or no value to us personally if we do not take it, read it, feed on it, and then proclaim it. It is a bittersweet book to be sure. It is a book that will change us. It is a book that leaves no one the same. Life and death are in its words. How then do we respond to this word? . . .
This book is honey (Pss 19:10; 119:103; Prov 24:13), better than bread (Matt 4:4), meat (1 Cor 3:1-2), and milk (1 Pet 2:2). Here is a diet for spiritual health and nourishment. However, we can expect a twofold reaction when eating and digesting this book. It will be sweet in our mouths, but it can be bitter to our stomachs (10:9-10). It is sweet in our mouths because it reveals the gospel—God’s goodness and grace, His love and mercy, His plans and purposes, His will and His ways. It is bitter to our stomachs because it is a word of judgment to unbelievers and a word of persecution and suffering for believers (Beale, Revelation, 552–53; also Osborne, Revelation, 404, and Mounce, Revelation, 210). To my mind, MacArthur puts it well:
All who love Jesus Christ can relate to John’s ambivalence. Believers long for Christ to return in glory, for Satan to be destroyed, and the glorious kingdom of our Lord to be set up on earth, in which He will rule in universal sovereignty and glory while establishing in the world righteousness, truth, and peace. But they, like Paul (Rom. 9:1-3), mourn bitterly over the judgment of the ungodly. (Revelation 1–11, 288)
There is joy and sorrow, sweetness and bitterness, gladness and sadness when God’s Word does its perfect saving and sanctifying work in our lives.
A. (:8) Command to Take God’s Word
“And the voice which I heard from heaven, I heard again speaking with me, and saying, ‘Go, take the book which is open in the hand of the angel who stands on the sea and on the land.’”
Van Parunak: These verses are a clear echo of Ezekiel 2-3. Portions of that chapter lie behind Revelation 5, but other portions are seen here. The fact that both chapters are needed to fill out the picture originally seen in Ezekiel is an additional confirmation that the same scroll is in view in Revelation 5 and 10.
B. (:9-10) Command to Assimilate (Feed on) God’s Word
- (:9) Object Lesson of the Command
a. Receiving the Revelation by Taking Action
“And I went to the angel, telling him to give me the little book.
And he said to me, ‘Take it, and eat it;’”
b. Feeding on the Revelation – Both Bitter and Sweet
“and it will make your stomach bitter,”
“but in your mouth it will be sweet as honey.”
Buist Fanning: As John received and wrote down this part of the vision and as his first-century audience heard or read it, they would have quickly associated these actions with Ezekiel’s account of his prophetic appointment in Ezekiel 2:1–3:15 and understood the vision’s significance accordingly. God called Ezekiel to go and speak as a prophet to the stubborn and rebellious people of Israel (Ezek 2:1–7). In his vision a hand offered a scroll to him filled with words of “lamentation, mourning, and woe” (2:8–10), and he was told to eat the scroll, to fill his belly with it, and then go and speak for God. When he ate it, Ezekiel found it “sweet as honey in his mouth” (3:1–3). But as he went out to preach he found the people unwilling to listen (3:7–9), and he went about his task discouraged and “in bitterness” (3:14–15).
- (:10) Obedience to the Command
a. Receiving the Revelation by Taking Action
“And I took the little book out of the angel’s hand and ate it,”
b. Feeding on the Revelation – Both Bitter and Sweet
“and it was in my mouth sweet as honey;”
“and when I had eaten it, my stomach was made bitter.”
Robert Mounce: The sweet scroll that turns the stomach sour is a message for the church. Before the final triumph believers are going to pass through a formidable ordeal. As the great scroll of chapter 5 outlined the destiny of the entire human race, so the little scroll unveils the lot of the faithful in those last days of fierce Satanic opposition. It tells of the two witnesses who, when they have finished their testimony, are destroyed by the beast out of the Abyss (11:7). Like the crucified Lord their dead bodies are exposed for public contempt (11:8). The people of God as they faithfully bear their witness to the world are not delivered “from martyrdom and death, but through martyrdom and death to a glorious resurrection.” The prospect of no further delay in the fulfillment of God’s eternal purposes is sweet indeed. That it will involve a bitter prelude is hard to swallow.
C. (:11) Command to Proclaim God’s Word
“And they said to me, ‘You must prophesy again concerning many peoples and nations and tongues and kings.’”
Grant Osborne: After this parabolic action, John is given his direct commission to prophesy in 10:11. Interestingly, the command does not come from either angelic figure, but rather is plural, λέγουσίν (legousin, they say). This could mean that both the mighty angel (10:1–3, 5–7) and the heavenly voice (10:4, 8) address John (so Giblin 1984: 435), but it is probably better to take this as an indefinite plural pointing to God as the source of the commission. John is told, Δεῖ σε πάλιν προϕητεῦσαι (Dei se palin prophēteusai, You must prophesy again). His prophetic ministry is a divine “must,” a necessity in light of the importance of the message; God has ordained it. This is not the first time John is commissioned in this book. In 1:11, 19 he was told to “write” down “what you have seen, what is now, and what will take place later.” Then in 4:1 John was called to heaven in order to be shown “what must take place after this.” The commission to “prophesy again” builds on both these and so is a recommissioning to his prophetic ministry, somewhat on the line of Paul’s repeated calls to his mission to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15; 22:21; 26:17–18). John is reminded by God of his ministry in light of these visions, and this will especially relate to the rest of his prophetic writing in chapters 12–22 as well as his prophetic action in 11:1–2 (Michaels 1997: 136–37 sees a special connection between the call to prophesy here and the action of 11:1–2). In light of what God was about to reveal to John, he needed the strength he would get from realizing that his commission paralleled that of Ezekiel.
Warren Wiersbe: He must declare God’s prophetic truth concerning (not “before”) many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings (Rev. 5:9). The word nations usually refers to the Gentile nations. John will have much to say about the nations of the world as he presents the rest of this prophecy.
Sola Scriptura: Interestingly, Revelation 11:7 focuses on the universality of the human opposition to God’s prophetic witnesses. Revelation 11:18 focuses on the nations in opposition to God’s sovereign rule. Revelation 12:3 focuses on the kings who are in opposition to the eternal plan of God for Israel. Revelation 13:1-2 focuses on kings in opposition to God’s sovereign rule on earth. Therefore, John does in fact prophesy against “peoples, nations, tongues, and kings.”
Buist Fanning: The Blessing and Unity of God’s Revelation in Scripture —
This passage reminds us of the unsurpassed gift of God’s revelation to us in Scripture. John’s recommissioning here (after his initial prophetic call in 1:9–20 and mirroring the call of Ezekiel in Ezek 2:1–3:15) anchors his words not in his own human insight but in the authority of the Lord. And here as elsewhere, John identifies himself and his work with the prophets of old (Rev 1:3; 22:6, 10, 18–19). Through all these messengers God has graciously unveiled his “mystery” (10:7), the previously hidden truth about his plan to redeem Israel and then, through her, people from all the nations of the world. John’s visions reflect the unity of what he has seen with what God revealed through the Old Testament prophets, through Jesus’s own teaching, and through the apostles and prophets of the New Testament. We are not left to mere human speculation or opinion about the future of the world. Though we sometimes long for greater clarity in our grasp of his truth, God has not left us uninformed about what he will do to bring his full redemption to earth in both judgment and restoration.
Daniel Akin: Our assignment is to go. Our calling is to proclaim the good news of the gospel. In the midst of judgment, God is announcing through His prophets the good news of His grace revealed in the gospel of His Son. The sweetness of faithful obedience cannot be soured by the bitterness of persecution, rejection, suffering, and even death.
Robert Mounce: the prophecies deal with people in general without attention to racial, geographic, ethnic, or social distinctions. The only real distinction is between those with the seal of God and those with the mark of the beast.