Bible Study with Jairus – Revelation 10
The Mighty Angel Strengthens Churches that Go Through Birth Pangs
After the sixth seal judgment, God sends an encouraging vision to those who have endured the six seal judgments. The encouraging vision helps them see the positive things God is doing in the spiritual world, including the mass salvation of the Jews and Gentiles. Similarly, God sent an encouraging vision after the sixth trumpet judgment, before the seventh judgment. Again, the vision helped people see the positive things God was doing in the world. This vision included a mighty angel that gave John a little scroll, which he ate. Since the judgments and trials were extremely harsh, God mercifully gave John two encouraging visions to share with others.
The number seven is a number of completion, foreshadowing God’s complete plans. God created the world in six days, and on the seventh, he rested. When six days are over, the seventh brings in a new phase of peace. In the West, Sunday is the first day of the week. Jewish people observed the seventh day, Saturday, as their day of rest. Similarly, the seventh seal and the seventh trumpet each ushered in a new stage of God’s work. After the seventh seal, God’s judgment of the church was complete, and He pivoted to judging the world with the seven trumpets. With the seventh trumpet, God completed his judgment of the world and began to judge evil spirits. God accomplished the phases of his plan one at a time, leading to the finale, the birth of a new heaven and a new earth.
The vision right before the seventh trumpet reveals an important proclamation from the angel: “…there would be no more delay, but that in the days of the trumpet call to be sounded by the seventh angel, the mystery of God would be fulfilled, just as he announced to his servants the prophets” (10:7). What is God’s mystery? It is to unite the Jews and Gentiles into a unified bride of Christ. Revelation 19 clearly states that Christ and His bride will have a wedding feast. Revelation 12 tells how the bride gives birth to a newborn male child who eventually will judge evil spirits.
The angel “swore by him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and what is in it, the earth and what is in it, and the sea and what is in it” (10:6). This verse proves that the purpose of the seventh trumpet is to judge the world and everything in it. When the seventh trumpet judgment arrives, the focus of God’s judgment at this time will turn to the evil spirits. He will judge them through the bowl judgments. Now that the bride has been created and her male child has been born, they will judge the angels (1 Cor. 6:3). The judges must take their places. This is why God gives John the little scroll to eat, so he can “prophesy about many peoples and nations and languages and kings.” He is calling the bride of Christ to take her place so that the male child may be born and the evil spirits may be judged. God’s judgment on the church (as revealed in the seven letters to the churches and the seven seals) and on the world (as revealed in the seven trumpets) will usher in God’s judgment on the evil spirits (as revealed in the seven bowl judgments). Then the dragon will appear in Revelation 12, and the beast in Chapter 13. They will deceive people to continue rebelling against God. However, this is their last struggle. God will judge all evil spirits, including them.
The Holy Spirit Judges the Church, the World, and the Evil Spirits.
As I have said before, it’s important to look at the overarching ideas in Revelation, not just the details. For example, in Revelation 10, many people pay attention to the details: the mighty angel, the seven thunders, and the mysteries that the seven thunders utter. God tells John not to record the words of the seven thunders, but to seal them. This makes people even more curious. In addition, scholars have different interpretations of the seven thunders. What exactly are they? Some say they are the sounds of God’s wrath; some say they are the voice of God that sounds like thunders; some people say the seven thunders are angels. We don’t know. We have no clue what the seven thunders are or what they sounded like. But that’s not the point here. The point is that God’s judgment on the world is almost complete, and the next stage is about to begin. The next stage will usher in the birth of the male child. This child, who represents the overcomers birthed by Christ’s bride, will judge the evil spirits.
God’s judgment starts with the house of God. The letters to the seven churches are God’s judgment on His church. When the judgment is over, heaven opens and God starts to take action from His throne, revealing the seven seals. The seven seals continue to cleanse the church as well as the world. These judgments intertwine with one another, and their target is the church. The vision that takes place after the sixth seal describes the Jews being sealed and the Gentiles being saved. After the seven seals, the seven trumpets come along, continuing the judgment on the church. At the same time, the evil spirits (and the beast from the bottomless pit) show up to kill prophets (Revelation 11). The main target of the seven trumpets is the world. A massive wave of evil spirits comes out in Revelation 12 when the male child is about to be born. A great dragon (12:3), a beast (13:1), and another beast (13:11) come into the picture one by one. The male child by this time has been born and caught up to God and His throne (12:5). A war breaks out and the great dragon is thrown down (12:9). Why is the dragon not thrown down after the child is caught up, and not at another time? Because the overcomers are judging Satan. The church will judge the evil spirits, and the angels will carry out the judgments. Satan becomes even angrier when he is thrown to the ground, and he persecutes the woman and the rest of her children (12:17). This event begins a three-and-a-half-year tribulation.
All these events are allowed by God, for God specifically says that the outer court “is given over to the nations, and they will trample the holy city for forty-two months” (11:2). Instead of measuring this court, John is asked to “measure the temple of God and the altar and those who worship there” (11:1). This reveals the three stages of God’s judgment that we have just mentioned. The three stages of God’s judgment target the church, the world, and the evil spirits. In the same way, the measurement of the temple has three stages: first the temple and altar of God, and then those who worship in the temple. When John measures the temple, he most likely measures the Holy of Holies and the Holy Place (or sanctuary). But the Outer Court is not to be measured yet, because it has been given to the Gentiles. Measurement represents judgment and sanctification; God’s judgment brings sanctification. The church is judged first, just as the temple is to be measured first. Next comes the judgment on the world, during which time some people in the world are saved. The evil spirits are the last to be judged, and more people repent and are sanctified during this time. But those who follow evil spirits and refuse to repent will be judged in the same way as the rebellious evil spirits. Finally, heaven and earth are cleansed, which is symbolized by the cleansing of the last courtyard.
The same principle applies to our personal spiritual experience. God first sanctifies and regenerates our spirits (John 3:16). He continues to renew our hearts and change our minds throughout our whole life (Romans 12:1). In the end our bodies are sanctified as well (Romans 8:23). This spiritual principle is clearly present in the structure of the book of Revelation. God’s judgment begins with the house of God. Then comes the cleansing of the world, which includes heaven, earth, and the people in it. Finally, the evil spirits are judged, along with the old heaven and earth. Yet throughout the process, people are being saved because God shows His mercy at every step.
The Mystery of God Will No Longer Be Delayed
If we are clear about the structure above, it will be very easy to understand the vision in Revelation 10 and 11. The mighty angel in chapter 10, “wrapped in a cloud, with a rainbow over his head, and his face was like the sun, and his legs like pillars of fire” (10:1), “had a little scroll open in his hand. And he set his right foot on the sea, and his left foot on the land” (10:2). He then “called out with a loud voice, like a lion roaring” (10:3). I was taught that this mighty angel was Jesus. But I’ve recently rethought what I’ve been taught. The Bible never says this angel is Jesus Christ. I personally believe this is just an angel whose job is to deliver a message announcing God’s judgment and work!
God’s judgment of the world has yielded considerable results. Just like a little chick pecking through its eggshell, the judgments have prepared the world for birth. The man-child will soon be born, and the universe will be reborn. Labor pains have been going on for some time, and as birth becomes imminent, the labor pains intensify. So the mighty angel comes to strengthen the church during such a difficult time. Angels appeared to Jesus several times during his earthly ministry, such as during his temptation in the wilderness and during his painful struggle in Gethsemane. “And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him” (Luke 22:43). Similarly, this mighty angel has come to strengthen and encourage the church that is about to go through the most difficult labor pains of childbirth. When my wife gave birth to my daughter, she was in a lot of pain. I stood next to her and held her hand tightly. I constantly encouraged her and provided moral support. Similarly, this angel appears at just the right moment to encourage the church. He roars at the enemy like a lion. The church, Christ’s bride, will soon experience the fiercest attack of all (the three-and-a-half-year tribulation) so God sends a mighty angel to strengthen His church.
The seven thunders speak, but God does not allow John to write down their words. We can only speculate about what the seven thunders are saying. My guess is that the seven thunders are more disasters that will follow the seven trumpets and the seven bowls. However, it is not yet God’s time to send these seven thunder judgments. The man-child must first be born so God can judge evil spirits and cleanse the entire universe. After the seventh trumpet is blown, God’s wrath falls on the earth (Revelation 11:18). As the heavenly temple opens, the ark of the covenant appears, and there are earthquakes, thunder, and hail (11:19). Perhaps the thunder in this chapter is related to the seven thunders. But of course, this is just my speculation.
John is not allowed to record the words of the seven thunders, but he does record what the mighty angel says. The angel swears “by him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and what is in it, the earth and what is in it, and the sea and what is in it, that there would be no more delay” (10:6). This oath is very interesting, especially because it is made between the sixth and seventh trumpet, when the labor pains and childbirth are about to begin. The entire universe is waiting in expectation for the sons of God to be revealed (Romans 8:19). It’s as if the universe is expecting a baby! The church has matured to a stage where its birth can no longer be delayed. The mighty angel comes to support the bride in her pain, and he reports to God that the birth process is moving along productively. In addition, the mighty angel reports the good news to humans: “In the days of the trumpet call to be sounded by the seventh angel, the mystery of God will be fulfilled, just as he announced to his servants the prophets” (10:7). After reporting the good news to God, the angel speaks words of encouragement to people.
John Eats the Scroll, Prophesies, and Summons the Bride to Judge Evil Spirits
Prophecies are words of encouragement. Paul says, “The one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation” (1 Corinthians 14:3). John also writes down the words of another angel: “The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Revelation 19:10). The spirit of prophecy is to bear witness for Jesus. In John’s vision, in addition to strengthening the church through the mighty angel, God Himself speaks words of comfort and encouragement.
John hears a voice from heaven that asks him to take the little scroll from the angel who is standing on the earth and the sea. John does so. The angel said, “It will make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be sweet as honey”. Why would the scroll be sweet in the mouth but bitter in the stomach? While people have different interpretations of this passage, my understanding is that prophetic words are sweet because they come from God’s good will. But the process of fulfilling the prophecies is difficult because it involves birth pain and spiritual battles.
Let me give an example from my own life. In January 2016, I received a prophecy telling me that I would have a child that year. I had been praying for a child for ten years before I received this prophecy. When I returned to China in February, I told my family about this prophecy. Everyone laughed at me. After getting back to the United States, the struggle continued. On May 12, God again told me in a dream that I would conceive my child within the next month. After I told my wife and other friends about it, I was strongly attacked by Satan. My wife argued with me and refused to speak with me for two weeks. On May 28, my wife found out that she was miraculously pregnant, and we finally reconciled. The beautiful prophecies I received were sweet, but the birth difficulties and labor pains brought misery.
This is exactly what is happening in Revelation 10. The promises are sweet, but the process is difficult. The birth pangs that Christ’s body will experience are much greater than what I went through. This is why the book in John’s mouth was as sweet as honey, but it turned bitter in his stomach. The visual imagery describes the sweetness of hope and the bitterness of waiting for that hope to come to fruition.
This chapter concludes by saying, “And I was told, ‘You must again prophesy about many peoples and nations and languages and kings’” (10:11). Who gave John this message? Was it an angel? Once before, an angel has been said to speak from heaven. If the voice from heaven is the voice of the angel, then this interpretation is acceptable. But if the voice from heaven is the voice of God, then God and this mighty angel were the ones who gave John the message.
In any case, the point here is that John is going to prophesy. Just as Ezekiel prophesied to the dry bones and they became a great army, John would prophesy to God’s chosen people, especially the overcomers. His prophecy would call forth two great prophets (11:3-12), as well as other believers who would glorify God after the seven thousand deaths in the earthquake (11:13). When the seventh angel officially blows the trumpet, all heaven declares, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever” (11:15). This prophecy will directly prompt the birth of the male child in Revelation 12, which is a major turning point in the book of Revelation.
God’s judgment in the world has produced positive results. The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of Christ. The next step is for the bride and the overcomer to judge evil spirits on behalf of the church. Then God will cleanse the entire universe.