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Pattern Recognition in the Apocalypse

Chapter 10

The Rainbow Angel

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The Rainbow Angel


Revelation 10 is only eleven verses and yet it contains many mysteries and OT allusions and provokes many questions. The questions that the commentators concern themselves with are predominately (1) Is the little book/scroll in this chapter the same as the scroll that Christ unsealed in Rev 5? (2) Is the rainbow angel Christ? (3) Why was John told not to write down the seven thunders? An attempt will be made to answer these concerns but first a macro-chiasm is offered so that an overview can be obtained. None of the commentaries produce (in my view) a satisfactory analysis of the structure, therefore the following macro-chiasm is proposed:




Important themes can be immediately identified, namely, the centre of the spiral C-C' is concerned with the angelic oath and the request by John to be given the “little book”. In the Song of Witness (Deut 32.40-41) the lifting of the hand signifies judgement and in Daniel 12.7 it specifies a 3½ year period of “scattering” for the holy people.  Whereas the focal point of the chiasm concentrates on judgement the outer bounds speak of mercy as the rainbow covenant of mercy finds its outworking in the instruction for John to prophecy again A-A'. The inner metric B-B' compliments each other with the βιβλαρίδιον in the hand of the angel now taken out of the hand of the angel by John, who consequently eats the book. There is however, a micro-chiasm alternating in the form a-b-a'-b' with the theme of a “voice”. First the seven thunder voice of the rainbow angel, followed by a voice from heaven with instructions (about sealing) then a timeframe is given in the “days of the voice of the seventh angel” (which is the angel of Rev 11.15) then a heavenly voice instructs John to take the open book out of the angel’s hand. There is also a contrast between b (seal) and b' (open) and the formula that describes the angel as “standing upon the sea and upon the earth” is repeated thrice in B-C- b' thus creating another mini chiasm bracketing the swearing of the oath in v.5 which lies in the centre.

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The perspective of John


The reassurance over divine delay (v.6) is in answer to the cry of the martyrs (how long?) coming from under the altar in Rev 6.9 or perhaps it should be read as “that time shall not be yet” (YLT).   1    If referring to “delay” the question regarding duration is valid (how long?), especially if we accept that John wrote at the cusp of the Nero persecution and the commencement of the Jewish war. John understood from the sixth seal and the shaking of the fig tree that it would not end well for Jerusalem. If understood as “that time shall not be yet” it indicates that there is more to happen and this reading is supported by v.7 which states that the end is in “the days of the voice of the seventh angel” (which is the last trump).  So John is told that either; (1) When the last trump sounds there will be no more delay, or; (2) The time is no yet, but when the last trump sounds, etc. Both readings give a similar sense. A first century believer might expect the return of Christ to occur soon after such a cataclysmic event as the fall of the city and the temple but instead John was shown a further repeat pattern beginning with a number of trumpet judgements. However, these trumpet judgements are specifically interrupted at the point where we are told:


“And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk: Neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts”.(Rev 9.20-21)


It is at this very point (at the end of Rev 9.20-21) that the trumpets are interrupted by the vision of the Rainbow angel. The rainbow was a covenant sign given after the deluge that promised that God would never again utterly destroy the earth. It was therefore a sign of mercy, similarly, the passage that speaks of divine judgement in the Song of Witness is offset with mercy; “and will be merciful unto his land, and to his people” (Deut.32.43).  2     Therefore, judgement is counterbalanced with mercy. The great roar of the seven thunders utter  judgement –an obvious allusion to the seven voices of the Lord in Psalm 29 where, “The LORD sits upon the flood; yea, the LORD sits as King forever” (Ps 29.10).

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However, surprisingly (perhaps shockingly) John is told to “seal up…and not write” down the thunders. Does that mean that they are unrecorded? (Why seal what is unwritten?). That is not the case (more on this anon) –what it means is that the looming judgement of Jerusalem in 70 CE (still in John’s future) would not be the final judgement, neither would the trumpets (that he was currently describing) herald the final judgement. Just as the Seals found a fulfilment in 70 CE, so also the trumpets found a fulfilment in 135 CE. The final judgement against Jewry was still reserved for the distant future when there would be no more delay because the mystery of God would be completed. The mystery of God encompasses among other things the inclusion of the Gentiles which coincided with  Jewry being cast off  (trampling of the Gentile court, Rev 11.2) until the time of the Gentiles are fulfilled (Lk 21.24) because (as Paul says), the reconciling of Israel is life from the dead (Rom 11.15, cf. Rev 11.18). John is being informed of the recurrent, repetitive nature of the judgements but also of the witnessing (Rev 10.11) ---prophesy again (πάλιν, palin) or, prophecy anew as in renewal or repetition of the action (so Strong’s).  Nothing is pre-ordained, as the possibility always exists for mercy if repentance is forthcoming.


God has more than one way to realize his plans and remain true to his word. However, stubborn refusal and disobedience resulted in a final five month (Rev 9.5, 10) siege of Jerusalem in 70 CE and a five month siege of Betar in 135 CE on both occasions they fell on the same day (9th Ab) after 3½ years of war. The waters of the flood remained on the earth for five months until they abated (Gen 8.3).


Despite the flood of destruction predicted by Daniel  3    (referred to by Josephus as a flood)  4     and despite Jewry being cast off,  5    in judgement God would still remember his mercy (rainbow). Obdurate refusal to listen in the first and second centuries would not prevent the accomplishment of the (mercy) “glad tidings/gospel” εὐηγγέλισεν (euEggelisen) which he declared to his prophets (Rev 10.7)  6    and that would occur without further delay “in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound” (Rev 10.7 cf. 11.15).

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Seal up…..write not (Rev 10.4)

NKJ Revelation 10:4 Now when the seven thunders uttered their voices, I was about to write; but I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, 'Seal up the things which the seven thunders uttered, and do not write them'”.


YLT Revelation 10:4 and when the seven thunders spake their voices, I was about to write, and I heard a voice out of the heaven saying to me, 'Seal the things that the seven thunders spake,' and, 'Thou mayest not write these things'”.


Before progressing it is useful to review how other commentaries interpret the “sealing” and two different interpretations are offered below. The first is from Grant R. Osborne:


“There have been many different interpretations of these seven thunders, especially since John is not allowed to write down their message. Least likely is the view that God has cancelled judgments so more could be converted, that is, shortened the days for the sake of the elect (Farrer, Caird, Sweet); this is impossible to explain in light of the judgments that predominate throughout chapters 6-18. Another view (Moffatt 1983:411-12) asserts that John uses the seven thunders rhetorically to explain why he is omitting details from his material in order to move to other matters; but if that were the case, John could simply omit them without comment. Still others (R. Charles, Morris) appeal to 2 Cor. 12:4 and state that the revelations were too sacred to be revealed at this time; however, it is hard to know why these were too sacred while the others in the book were not so. Or perhaps John is using this to oppose certain apocalyptic prophets who used these thunders to predict apocalyptic timetables regarding the exact time of the eschaton (Krodel 1989: 213-14); but this would certainly be a strange way to do so, since timetables are not part of the context. Closer to the context are those who say this represents a further series of plagues or judgments that have been either cancelled (Mounce 1998: 203-4) or not revealed (Beale 1999: 534—35). However, it is difficult to see why God would reveal three sets of judgments but not a fourth set. Hoiwerda (1999: 1 50) believes that the seven thunders may have called for an additional sevenfold judgment and are silenced because there is no place for another judgment since the other judgments had not led to repentance (9:20-2 1). But this fails to explain why there are further judgments in ensuing chapters. Two factors lead to at least a possible solution to this enigmatic passage. First, the seven thunders do not refer to a specific number of judgments but stem from the Ps. 29 allusion. Thus their message refers to general judgment rather than specific judgments. Second, the key term, σφράγισον, might well contain a double meaning. On the surface, there is an echo of Dan. 12:4, where Daniel is told to “close up and seal the words of the scroll until the time of the end.” In this sense, God has determined the time when the church will know the contents, and they must await his will. Yet the connection of this passage with chapter 5 points to another aspect of the term, indicating sovereign ownership by God. In this context God commands John to “seal up” the message of the seven thunders and then tells him not to “write them down.” Thus 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”.  7 

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Note also the comments from James L. Ressegule:


“The thunders may be another series of seven judgments like the seals and trumpets, although John does not clarify. With a two-step progression a heavenly voice commands that the thunders be sealed up and not written down (10:4). To seal something is to make it unavailable, similar to the shutting of a door. When the door in heaven is opened the mysteries of heaven are accessible to those on earth (4:1), and when the seals of the scroll are opened the contents of the scroll are made known. The thunders, however, are sealed up made inaccessible to the peoples of the earth which the second step up, made inaccessible to the peoples of the earth, which the second step of the progression reinforces: “do not write it down” (10:4). The double command assures that whatever the thunders had to say will never be known. John gives no reason for their sealing, but Richard Bauckham may be correct that divine judgments are ineffectual in convincing the earth’s inhabitants to repent (cf. 9:20-21). Another course of action is needed. John’s prophecy and the testimony of the church becomes “God’s hitherto unrevealed purpose for achieving what judgments alone have failed to achieve: the repentance of the world. Whereas the trumpet plagues hardened the hearts of “the rest of humankind”  8     (9:20), the testimony of the faithful church leads to their repentance (11:13)”.  9 

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The seven voices (thunders) of Revelation 14


To my knowledge H.A. Whittaker is the only commentator that has suggested that the seven thunders are recorded in Rev 14 which repeatedly mentions the voice of God. Therefore the thunders equate with angelic pronouncements sometimes (but not always) accompanied by descriptors such as sounding like “many waters” or a “loud voice” etc. The thunders that have been identified (below) vary slightly from those suggested by Whittaker   10     but both schemas end with the seventh thunder commencing the vial judgements of Rev 16.1:


o  1st thunder - - Voice from heaven [many waters] (14.2)
o  2nd thunder - - Another angel saying [everlasting gospel] (14.6-7)
o  3rd thunder - - And there followed another angel, saying, [Babylon fallen] (14.8)
o  4th thunder - - Third angel...saying with a loud voice [mark of Beast].(14.9)
o  5th thunder - - And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write (14.13)
o  6th thunder - - Crying with a loud voice to him that sat on the cloud (14.15)
o  7th thunder - - And I heard a great voice out of the temple. (16.1)


Commenting on Rev 10 (Op., cit.) Whittaker says; “The most likely understanding of the Seven Thunders harmonizes with this conclusion. It is commonly overlooked that there is a seeming contradiction about the instructions given to John concerning the Thunders: “Seal up those things which the seven thunders uttered, and write then’ not.” But how can that which has not been written down be “sealed up”? Clearly “seal up” implies that what the Thunders uttered had been already written down. If this be so, “write them not” must be read as: “write not their meanings.” Revelation 14 has further connections with Rev 10:


Revelation  10 Revelation 14

Seven thunders uttered their voices(v.3)

---as the voice of a great thunder (v.2)

I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me....write them not (v.4)

---I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, write…(v.13)

That there should be time no longer (v.6)

---for the time is come for thee to reap (v.15)

Created heaven…and earth…and sea (v.6)

---that made heaven, earth and the sea (v.7)

As he hath declared (euaggelizo) to his servants the prophets. (v.7)

---having the everlasting gospel(euaggelizo) to preach unto them that dwell on the earth (v.6)

Mystery finished (v.7)

---(Mystery) Babylon falls (v.8)


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The themes of Revelation 10 are expanded in Revelation 14 and it is there that the Greek equivalent of evangelize is used for preaching the good tidings/gospel. It only occurs twice in Revelation (Rev 10.7, 14.6). Moreover, the instruction not to write is countermanded with exactly the same words in Rev 14.13, “And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them”.


Perhaps the “sealing” includes the writing or “sealing” of the faithful in the book of life? If writing and sealing only pertains to future prophecy that is for some mysterious reason withheld then it contradicts the intent of Rev 22.10; “And he saith unto me, Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand”. The time of the end was when the words would be “unsealed” –“And he said, Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end” (Dan 12.9). However, in Daniel the “sealing” included more than sealing mere words of prophecy; “and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book” (Dan 12.1)…. “But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book” (Dan 12.4).


So, both prophetic words can be written as well as the names of those who are to be saved and prophetic words can be sealed and the book of life can also be sealed. These “names” may be martyred but ultimately they will be saved –compare Rev 11.13 (YLT): “and killed in the earthquake were names of men” (faithful?) and Rev 13.8; “whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb”. One of the major themes of Revelation is the “sealing” of the faithful and writing of their names in the book of life (and exclusion of the beast worshipers). The Greek σφράγισον in Rev 10.4 is an imperative verb from the noun sphragis (σφραγίς) which according to definition (a) in Vine’s denotes “a seal or signet, Rev 7:2, “the seal of the living God,” an emblem of ownership and security, here combined with that of destination (as in Ezek.9:4), the person to be sealed being secured from destruction and marked for reward” and used as a verb sphragizo (σφραγίζω), Vine’s says, to seal (similar to the noun), is used to indicate (a) security and permanency…”  11 


Therefore, while “sealing” can mean “making inaccessible” it also carries the meaning of securing (making safe) as a sign of ownership etc.  In light of the fact that Amos 3.7 states that, “the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets” it seems unlikely that John would hear utterances that he was subsequently told not to write down.

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In this we can state with some confidence that Whittaker is correct in identifying the thunders with the voices of Rev 14. Moreover, we add our own observations that the “sealing” and “writing” probably relates to the saints who are to wait patiently for “that time shall not be yet”(Rev 10.6 YLT) many more saints will perish (during the thunder judgements) and thereafter the Gentiles will be evangelized. However, a final repeat of the pattern will occur right at the end –apostasy and preaching (again) but when it reaches that point, “in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound, the mystery of God should be finished”. There will be “time no longer”.


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The mighty angel (Rev 10.1)


“And I saw another mighty angel come down from heaven, clothed with a cloud: and a rainbow was upon his head, and his face was as it were the sun, and his feet as pillars of fire.”


Allusions to the book of Daniel are obvious, not only in Rev 10 but as an inter-text that continues throughout the vision section (here limited only to Rev 10-12):


Revelation Daniel

10.1 A mighty angel.

10.5 and 12.7 A man clothed in linen.

10.2 Right foot on the sea, left foot on the land.

12.7 Standing on the waters of the river.

10.1 Face like the sun.

10.6 Face like lightning.

10.1 Feet as pillars of fire.

10.6 Feet like polished brass.

10.2 Open book in his hand.

10.21 “I will show thee that which is noted in the Scripture of truth (the heavenly prototype).”

10.3 Voice as a lion.

10.6 Voice like a multitude.

10.5Lifts right hand to heaven. (the left hand holds the book)

12.7 Lifts both hands to heaven.

10.6 Swears by him that liveth for ever.

12.7 Swears by him that liveth for ever.

10.7 Mystery of God to be finished as declared to the prophet.

12.7 “All these things shall be finished.”

11.2 Temple court “cast out”, given to Gentiles.

12.11 Daily sacrifice taken away, abomination set up.

11.2 Holy city trodden under foot.

12.7 Power of the holy people scattered.

11.2 42 months.

12.7Time, times and a half.

11.18 The time of the dead that they should be judged.

12.2 Many that sleep awake, to everlasting life or to contempt.


It is obvious that the Apocalypse is understood as a realization of Daniel’s prophecies and readers are referred to the Daniel commentary “God is Judge” as the same thematic (temple restoration and atonement) underlies both visions. The restored “temple” of these visions is the Lord Jesus Christ (and his saints).

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The “mighty angel” appears in Rev 10.1 and also Rev 18.21. Here, the mighty angel has an open book (little book) and takes an oath and in Rev 18 the mighty angel announces the final violent fall of Babylon and this indicates that the two events are linked (although separated by historical time). The characteristics of the “mighty angel” are also similar to the description of Christ:


Angel of Revelation 10 Christ in Revelation

Clothed with a cloud

Behold he cometh with clouds (1.7)

His face as the sun

as the sun shines in his strength (1.16)

His feet as pillars of fire

His feet like unto fine brass (1.15)

as when a lion roars

The Lion of the tribe of Judah  (5.5)

A rainbow was upon his head

rainbow throne…
    …Lamb in the midst (4.3,5.6)


The correspondence between the “mighty angel” and Christ has many commentators suggesting that the “mighty angel” is actually Christ.  12     This is unnecessary and is a result of the failure to recognize the phenomenon of agency. In the past, the Law was administered by the Yahweh angel who bore the divine name and had the characteristics of God (Exod 23.21).


In this new dispensation the “mighty angel” bears the characteristics of Christ (that were revealed in Rev 1) and now the “mighty angel” bearing the same attributes by association, acts as Christ’s agent. The description “mighty” or “strong” is a play on the name of Gabriel; “mighty/strong/ man/warrior of God” and it is this angel that spoke with Daniel (8.16, 9.21) and announced the birth of Christ (Luke 1.9 note the word used in Luke: “glad tidings”) and the birth of the prophetic forerunner second Elijah (Luke 1.36).


In Rev 10 another prophetic commission is announced (prophesy again) and the word “evangelize” (good tidings) is encountered. Thus, we have the first set of attributes linked with Christ himself giving the message of the Apocalypse and the second description of the attributes linked with the “mighty angel” who gives the message that will further the gospel contained in the little book. Therefore, the “mighty angel” appears at critical junctures of divine history, to announce dramatic interventions in human affairs for the furtherance of the divine plan and it is fitting that this same “mighty angel” appears for the last time to announce (with satisfaction) the violent overthrow of Babylon as this is the outcome of his previous proclamations.

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It is also fitting that this angel is a “warrior” because the gospel message is at war with the world and in this he anticipates and represents the one who-- “judges in righteousness and makes war” (Rev 19.11).  However, let us be clear, Christ is “above the angels” (cf. Heb 2.5) and the angels themselves have become “fellow servants” (Rev 22.9) with the saints in this war against Babylon.


It was not possible for the angels to “open the scroll” (Rev 5.3) but it is fitting that Jesus as “commander in chief” delegates to the “mighty angel” (that announced his birth!) to give a message to his servant John which will also result in an Elijah mission and a birth! And this is the beginning of the answer to that other question – the “little book” is not the same as the scroll of Rev 5 ---it is another phase of the divine plan (more on this anon) and that is why it is announced by the “mighty angel”.


As already noted, the rainbow is the covenant of mercy demonstrating that wrath is offset with mercy. The goal of this next phase is to induce repentance so that the consummation of all things can occur.

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The little book (Rev 10.2)


“And he had in his hand a little book open: and he set his right foot upon the sea, and his left footon the earth”.


This is the first mention of the “little book” and the first mention of the formulaic “upon the sea and the earth” although here we are told that the left foot is on the earth and the right foot is on the sea. Note that on the other two occasions the sea is mentioned first (vv.5, 8).  13     Clearly, the sea has preference over the earth and this is indicated by the right foot being placed on the sea (as in put you best foot forward) with the biblical predilection of associating the right (hand etc) with blessing. The sea (the Gentiles) is about to receive a blessing and the blessing (the gospel message) is to the disadvantage of the earth (Israel), who will be temporarily (rainbow) cast off because of their refusal to repent. Notably, in 135 CE as punishment for the Bar Kochba rebellion, Jerusalem officially became a Gentile city (without a temple to Yahweh but instead a temple to Jupiter –it became Jupiter's city).   14 


The description of the colossal angel that bridges the land and the sea with his feet adds local colour to the vision as readers would immediately think of the one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, the “Colossus of Rhodes” a giant statute in the harbour of Rhodes (it probably inspired the statue of liberty in New York harbour). 


It was built in 280 BCE and fell over in an earthquake in 224 BCE but the ruins (the legs standing and body on the ground) were still a tourist attraction in John’s day and the island of Rhodes is less than 300 km sailing from the isle of Patmos. Apparently, the inner core of the statue was stone blocks and it was clad with bronze plating on the outside – making the 33m (108 feet) statue glow in the sun as mariners approached the island from a distance. This was fitting as the statute was dedicated to the sun god (Helios).

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One cannot help but note that the “mighty angel” has a face like the sun and legs like pillars of fire. It is quite possible that this statute had one arm raised to the heavens (or held a torch). A popular myth held that the legs stood on two huge piers guarding the harbor, and ships would pass between the legs (but this is structurally impossible for the building techniques of the day). As Aune (1998a: 556) points out, however, it was actually on a promontory overlooking the harbor, and the ruins of the magnificent statue were still visible on the ground in John’s day.


Preserved in Greek anthologies of poetry is what is believed to be the genuine dedication text for the Colossus; “To you, O Sun, the people of Dorian Rhodes set up this bronze statue reaching to Olympus, when they had pacified the waves of war and crowned their city with the spoils taken from the enemy. Not only over the seas but also on land did they kindle the lovely torch of freedom and independence. For to the descendants of Herakles belongs dominion over sea and land”.  15 


One thing is certain, John is not describing the “colossus” but the “mighty angel” who is a repudiation of what the “colossus” stood for. Namely, it is the God of Israel who is sovereign and has dominion over heaven, earth (Israel) and sea (Gentiles). The divine plan for redemption would not fall foul of an earthquake (like the colossus did), in fact it would cause an earthquake that would shake the very foundations of the world and man’s dominions; “And there were voices, and thunders, and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such as was not since men were upon the earth, so mighty an earthquake, and so great.  And the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell: and great Babylon came in remembrance before God, to give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath” (Rev 16.18-19).


Now we turn to the “little book”, interestingly, the “mighty angel” was clothed with a cloud in 10.1; περιβεβλημένον (peri-beblemenon), literally, “having-been-about-cast” (i.e., clothed or surrounded) which is no doubt a play on 10.2;  βιβλαρίδιον (biblaridion) as if the “mighty angel” is “clothed” with the “little book” i.e., his message forms a cloud around him, the word cloud is associated with witnesses/witnessing i.e., “coming with the clouds” (witnesses) as in Heb 12.1 “compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses”. The message is therefore ultimately one of mercy (rainbow) but the outworking will herald grievous punishments for unrepentant Jewry. At this point it is instructive to see how some of the commentaries regard the “little book” –

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“The mighty angel in 10:2 holds ἐν τῇ χειρὶ αὐτοῦ βιβλαρίδιον ἠνεῳγμένον (en tē cheiri autou biblaridion ēneōgmenon, a little scroll opened in his hand). There is a great deal of debate as to whether this is the same scroll as the great scroll of chapter 5. Many (e.g., R. Charles, Lohmeyer, Lohse, Kiddle, Court, Roloff, Mounce) believe that these are two different scrolls. The term for the scroll in 5:1 is βιβλίον (biblion, scroll), while here it is βιβλαρίδιον (biblaridion, little scroll).  16     That scroll was articular, in the right hand of God, closed and sealed with seven seals, while this is anarthrous and open in the hand of the mighty angel. Therefore, the content of the first scroll is seen to be the visions of 6:1-8:5, while the content of this “little scroll” is restricted to 11:1-13. However, there are several problems with this view, leading others (Beasley-Murray; Sweet; Boring; Wall; Bauckham 1993b: 243-49 Holwerda 1999: 151) to argue for identity between the scrolls of chapters 5 and 10. To restrict the scroll of chapter 5 is to do an injustice to its contents. As argued in 5:1-2, the first scroll contains the divine plan for the ending of this age, not just the seals and the angel with the censer.  Also, βιβλίον is already a diminutive in form, though not in function, and John calls this “little scroll” βιβλίον in 10:8. Thus these two terms are probably synonyms. Bauckham (1993b: 244-45, following Mazzaferri) argues that diminutives in Revelation do not carry diminutive force, and βιβλαρίδιον could have been used in the early church for Christian prophetic revelation (as exemplified in Herm. Vis. 2.1.3; 2.4.1-3). Moreover, both Rev. 5:2 and 10:1 begin with “And I saw a(nother) mighty angel,” and while the content of Rev. 5:1 stems from Ezek. 2:9-10, the content of Rev. 10:2-3 stems from Ezek. 3:1-3 (both part of Ezekiel’s call). Therefore, 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 might 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”.  17 

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Unlike other languages, English does not have many diminutives but it does for “book” a small book becomes a booklet – and this is the essence of the argument above – is the book (scroll) of 10.2 the same as the book of 5.1 or is it a booklet?  The technical explanation is not clear cut but according to Aune they are all diminutives of “Bible” or, “book” (βίβλος); the subsequent terms seem to denote decreasing magnitude i.e., shrinking in size, so if the Bible (βίβλος) is a book, then a Biblion (βιβλίον) would be a mini-book and a Biblidion (βιβλίδιον) a minute-book with a Biblaridion (βιβλίδιον) being the smallest i.e., a booklet.  However, as pointed out above, John calls the scroll both a Biblaridion (βιβλίδιον) in 10.2 and a Biblion (βιβλίον) in 10.8 (the same term as in 5.1). 


However, stepping back from technical explanations of the Greek to gain an overview we can determine that the structure of the Apocalypse is hierarchical as the seventh seal contains the trumpets and the seventh trumpet contains the seven plague-vials. Therefore, the scroll that Christ unseals contains all subsequent revelations including Rev 10. They are all part of the Biblion (βιβλίον) opened by Christ in Rev 5. The fact that John uses two different (but similar) words to describe the book (scroll) can be explained by the need to both identify it with and at the same time distinguishing it from the scroll of Rev 5. The Biblaridion (βιβλίδιον) is therefore a smaller part of the larger plan Biblion (βιβλίον) and as such the Biblaridion can be called a “booklet” but it is still a leaf out of the larger book Biblion (βιβλίον) that Christ opened, which  itself is a book in an even larger “Bible” (βίβλος) that God revealed to his prophets over the ages.


Rev 10 is then an interrumpo interruptum of the prophetic flow, a crisis brought on by obdurate Jewry who refused to repent --- the strategy changes and a new phase in the grand plan for redemption is initiated.  The Jews had shown almost superhuman fortitude in resisting the divine will.  Like their forefather Jacob they wrestled God (his angel) to a draw ---they would not---could not overcome their old nature yet they still desired the blessing. It was only by employing reserves of supernatural power that the angel was able to disable Jacob—such was Jacob’s strength.

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Seven Thunders (Rev 10.3-4)


“And cried with a loud voice, as when a lion roareth: and when he had cried, seven thunders uttered their voices. And when the seven thunders had uttered their voices, I was about to write: and I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Seal up those things which the seven thunders uttered, and write them not”.


It is significant that the “seven thunders” are heard by the apostle John, who together with his brother James was “surnamed Boanerges which is, the sons of thunder” (Mk.3.17). The two apostles form types of the two witnesses, for it is John himself that receives the commission to witness at the end of Rev 10. This is obviously not literal, for John was already an old man, and James had died some time back, before this latest commission was given.  Never the less, although not present in body, the sons of thunder are present in spirit when the two future witnesses speak.


Why were the brothers given the epithet Boanerges? Several suggestions have been made, amongst them, the suggestion that the name belonged to the two Sanhedrin assistants, who counted the votes for  “Yea” or “Nay”, and who were seated at the right and left of the High priest. With this may be compared the request by James that they sit on the Lord’s right and left hand in his kingdom. (Mk. 10.36)


This is an attractive suggestion, for in essence this is what the two witnesses are instructed to do, “to measure the temple” (count the votes for and against), furthermore the Lord asked, whether they could, “drink of the cup that I drink of and be baptised with the baptism that I am baptised with?” (Mk.10.38-39). When they replied in the affirmative Jesus said they would indeed experience the same baptism as himself – that is, suffering and martyrdom due to their witnessing.  The witnesses of Rev 11 also share in the suffering of their Lord.

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Rabbinic tradition comments as follows: “When thunder goes forth in his full force, no creature can understand it. It is not written none understands, but who can understand? The intelligent ones they know his hints and thoughts”.  18     Here thunder is regarded as a divine means of communication, that only the wise will understand.


Whittaker makes a similar point, “[…] write them not” must read as “write not their meanings” otherwise it seems totally inappropriate to instruct John to, “seal them up.”   19    However, as we previously noted the thunders that bring judgements also seal the fate of the faithful whose names are written in the book of life --- and at the point of reception (in Rev 10) John is being informed not to write or seal because their number is not yet full.  There is more witnessing (martyrdom) to come and they must prophesy (again πάλιν, palin) as the pattern repeats and culminates in the days of the seventh trumpet when there will be time no longer as the book of life is opened and the dead are raised.

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The Oath (Rev 10.5-6)


“And the angel which I saw stand upon the sea and upon the earth lifted up his hand to heaven, And sware by him that liveth for ever and ever, who created heaven, and the things that therein are, and the earth, and the things that therein are, and the sea, and the things which are therein, that there should be time no longer”.


In this passage God is the witness not the subject of the oath. Dan.12. 7 is clearly the source of the gesture, even though in that passage the angel lifts both hands.  In LXX Deut 32.40 and Rev 10.5 alone, however, is the right hand raised as a gesture accompanying an oath. In the important passage in Deut 32.40, the first line of verse 40 can be constructed as the second part of v.39, i.e., “and no one can deliver from my hand, for I lift up my hand to heaven. I swear: as I live forever…”  Apart from “lifting the hand to heaven and swearing” which is an allusion to the Song of Witness (Deut 31-32), there are also many other intertextual echoes:  


Revelation Song of Witness (Deut 31-32)

the wrath of the Lamb (6.16)

I will render vengeance(v.41)

Wormwood (8.11) destroyer (9.11)

Bitter destruction (v.24)

Scorpions, serpents (9.3,5,19)

Venom (v.24)

Worship devils (9.20)

Sacrificed to devils (v.17)

Rainbow (10.1)

Will be merciful (v.43)

Left foot on Israel (10.2)

Hide my face from them (v.20)

Right foot on Gentiles (10.2)

Provoked by a foolish nation (v.21)

Seal up (10.4)

sealed up among my treasures (v.34)

lifted up his hand to heaven (10.5)

I lift up my hand to heaven (v.40)

Sware by him that lives forever (10.6)

And say, I live forever (v.40)

Two witnesses(11.3)

This Song a Witness (31.19)

Jerusalem spiritually Sodom (11.8)

Vine of Sodom (v.32)

Contrast: earth dwellers rejoicing (11.10)

Rejoice, O ye nations, with his people (v.43)

Woman in wilderness (12.14, 17.3)

Found in wilderness (v.10)

Eagle wings (12.14)

Protected like eagle (v.11)

Beast image (13.4) abomination (17.5)

Strange gods, abominations(v.16)

Sea-beast (13.1)

Send beasts with teeth (v.24)

deadly wound  healed(13.3)

I kill, I wound and heal (v.39)


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Normally heaven and earth are called upon as witnesses to an oath, not because they serve as guardians or protectors of the covenant but because they are stable and permanent aspects of reality. That is not done here because the heaven, the earth, and the sea will all pass away. (Rev.21.1) The only true stable reality is God himself.


Both Daniel and Deuteronomy form the source for the lifting of the hand(s) to heaven, and Daniel, like John, is also instructed to, “shut up the words, and seal the book, until the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.” (Dan.12.4) Running to and fro is not a reference to air travel, (sic) and the increase of knowledge is not a reference to computers (sic). “Running to and fro” is biblical idiom for prophesying --- understanding of the prophetic word will flourish (the Apocalypse will not to be fully understood until the very last i.e., by the generation that will be alive when the Lord returns).


  • And the Lord answered me and said: Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it. For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak (and it hasteth toward the end. R.V.) and not lie: though it tarry wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry. (Hab.2. 2-3)
  • None of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand. (Dan.12.10)


The question ---“How long?” is implicit in this section of the text. This was the question on the lips of the prophet Daniel; “How long shall it be to the end of these wonders?” (Dan 12.6) however, the question was not asked by Daniel, but, “one said to the man clothed in linen.” This question was asked on behalf of the saints of all ages (Rev 6.10), and although the question was probably asked by another angel, the possibility must be considered that perhaps Daniel actually saw John ask Gabriel the question.


The answer given was that, “there should be time no longer” (Rev10.6).  The time period in Dan.12.7 is for a, “time, times and a half (3½ years); and when he shall have accomplished to scatter the power of the holy people all these things shall be finished.”  This is alluded to in Rev.10.7, “the mystery of God should be finished.”  Revelation also speaks of 3½ years in Rev 11.3.  The question “how long?” was also on the lips of first century Christians (Rev 6.9).

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Peter Watkins has also recognised that this question is implicit in the text, moreover the quote that we have already considered from Hab. 2.2-3, “it will surely come it will not tarry” carries the same overtones.  Habakkuk contains many allusions to Revelation, furthermore Habakkuk twice poses the question (1.2; 2.6) corresponding with the two times the question is asked in Revelation.


  • In the midst of the years, in the midst of the years (half way the seven – Dan.9.27) make it known; in wrath remember mercy. (= rainbow covenant)(Hab.3.2)
  • Before his face shall go a report. (= the witnesses?) (Hab.3.5)
  • Thy bow (rainbow?) was made quite bare surely thou didst bend thy bow at seven thunders.  20     (Hab.3.9)


Habakkuk resided in the southern kingdom of Judah, and unlike the other prophets who preceded him, Habakkuk addressed his words not to his compatriots but to God. His principle question is: when will God fulfil his purpose and bring his reign of justice, righteousness, and peace on earth? When is the kingdom of God going to arrive?

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The mystery of God finished (Rev 10.7)


“But in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound, the mystery of God should be finished, as he hath declared to his servants the prophets”.


It is finished is a formula that occurs at critical moments in God’s purpose and it describes creative acts:


  • Thus the heaven and earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day (Gen.2.1, 2).
  • Jesus cried with a loud voice, it is finished (John19. 30; Mtt.27.50; Lk.23.46; Mk.15.37).
  • The mystery of God should be finished (Rev 10.7), a great voice…it is done. (Rev 16.17). God has finished creating the ‘host of heaven’ and rests on the seventh day.


John is told twice to take the “little book”. It is not handed to him; even when he asks the angel to give it to him, the answer is that he must take it. This was also the experience of Ezekiel who was told to eat the roll and to fill his belly with it (Ezek.3.1, 3). On both occasions the idea is the same. The messenger of God has to take God’s message into his very life and being. The sweetness of the roll is a recurring theme; the judgments of God are sweeter than honey and the honey comb (Ps.19.10) “How sweet are thy words to my taste! Sweeter than honey to my mouth” (Ps.119.103) Apparently, when a Jewish boy was learning the alphabet it was written on a slate in a mixture of flour and honey, which he was allowed to lick off if he remembered the pronunciation.  But for John the roll was both sweet and bitter at the same time. It is a sweet thing to be chosen as God’s witness, but the message he proclaimed was bitter. The sons of thunder have the privilege to be admitted to the secrets of heaven (seven thunders) but at the same time it was bitter to have to predict a time of terror, and martyrdom even if the result was ultimate triumph at the end.

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The commission to witness (Rev 10.8-11)


“And the voice which I heard from heaven spake unto me again, and said, Go and take the little book which is open in the hand of the angel which standeth upon the sea and upon the earth. And I went unto the angel, and said unto him, Give me the little book. And he said unto me, Take it, and eat it up; and it shall make thy belly bitter, but it shall be in thy mouth sweet as honey. And I took the little book out of the angel's hand, and ate it up; and it was in my mouth sweet as honey: and as soon as I had eaten it, my belly was bitter. And he said unto me, Thou must prophesy again before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings”.


H.A.W. proposes that the mystery of God is the preaching of the gospel to the Gentiles, this is only partially correct. The mystery of God is the kingdom. This great mystery has various components.


(1) Bride (a great mystery cf. Eph.5.31-33)
(2) Christ who is the mystery of godliness (1 Tim.3.16; Col.2.2, 3)
(3) The casting away of Israel is a mystery (Rom.11.25)
(4) The inclusion of the Gentiles is a mystery (Eph.3.3; Rom.11.25)
(5) Eternal life is a mystery (1 Cor.15.51; Col.1.5, 27; Col.2. 2, 3 cf. 3. 3)


The counterpart to these Godly mysteries is the mystery of iniquity (2 Thess.2.7), Mystery Babylon (Rev 17.5) and the harlot-bride (Rev 17.7). The mystery of God encompasses many things but essentially it is the kingdom in all its aspects including the rejection of Israel and salvation preached to the Gentiles. The reconciliation of Israel at the end of this period is equated by Paul with the resurrection (Divine acceptance of Israel is quite literally life from the dead cf. Rev 11.18).

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In the Apocalypse the “good tidings” or “eternal gospel” that is declared (evangelized) is not only the message of salvation but also the hour of judgment that falls on Babylon. This is indeed “good tidings” for the faithful and the theme is found in the seven thunders of Rev 14. Historically, Rev 14 finds a literal realization in the fall of Babylon (by Trajan, which shocked the Jews of Parthia) and subsequent fall of Jerusalem (extinguishing the Bar Kochba rebellion) in the second century. Although separated by some sixteen years the fall of Babylon and subsequently of Jerusalem are linked in a political and spiritual sense.


However, the second century fall of Babylon/Jerusalem was only a partial realization forming parts of a much larger pattern that will be repeated at the end. The mystery of God is then the final fall of Babylon and the consummation of the kingdom. It is finished does not mean that the kingdom is over, but that it has come to fruition, it is fulfilled. Amos 3.6-8 is almost a miniature paraphrase of the “little book” ---


“Shall the (R.V.) trumpet (In the days of the voice of seventh angel cf. Rev 10.7, last trump cf. 11.15) be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid? (cf. Rev 11.13) shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord hath not done it? (Judgment of Babylon cf. Rev 14.7)   Surely the Lord will do nothing, but he reveals his secret (seven thunders cf. Rev 10.4) unto his servants the prophets. (Which he declared unto his servants the prophets cf. Rev 10.7) The lion hath roared (a lion roars cf. Rev 10.3) who will not fear? (cf. Rev 11.13)  The Lord hath spoken (a voice from heaven cf. Rev 10.8), who can but prophesy?”(Prophesy again cf. 10.11)

The last trump sees the introduction of the kingdom and the judgment of the world (Rev 11.18).