I want to offer some thoughts on Revelation ch10.
This chapter is part of the account of the "seven trumpets". A little before the seventh trunpet is sounded, John finds himself being sent on a
mission to the world.
So I'm going to be asking the question; what is the purpose of John's mission?
The message of this chapter comes through John's encounter with a great angel, which echoes and "updates" a couple of similar encounters in the Old
One such meeting is in Daniel's first vision.
In Daniel ch10, the prophet is standing on the banks of the Tigris. He lifts up his eyes and sees "a man clothed in linen".
The figure is standing above
(showing authority over?) the waters of the river, as ch12 makes clear.
The man has a face "like the appearance of lightning". His arms and legs have a brightness "like the gleam of burnished bronze".- Daniel ch10 vv4-6
In the rest of the vision, the figure tells Daniel what to expect from a great king who makes war on God and on his people, until God intervenes.
At the end of the vision, Daniel asks a very important question;
"How long shall it be before the end of these wonders?"
Then he sees the figure raising both hands to heaven;
"And I heard him swear by him who lives for ever that it will be for a time, two times, and half a time".
Once that point is reached, "the shattering of the power of the holy people" would come to an end, and "all these things would be accomplished".-
Daniel ch12 vv6-7
WE've already seen one version of this figure in the first chapter of Revelation.
I pointed out the similarities when I was discussing that chapter; Fear Not
His face, on that occasion was "like the sun shining in full strength".
He was called "one like a Son of Man", and he identified himself with the risen Christ.
The other meeting is in Ezekiel's first vision.
In Ezekiel ch1, the prophet sees the Glory of God by the river Chebar.
As in Daniel's vision, Ezekiel reports the brightness of the figure;
"Downwards from what had the appearance of his loins, I saw as it were gleaming bronze, like the apperance of fire, and there was brightness round
about him. Like the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud on the day of rain, so was the appearance of brightness round about".-Ezekiel ch1
Ezekiel is then shown a scroll containing "words of lamentation and mourning and woe". He's instructed to take the scroll and to eat it, and he's then
told to go and speak "my words" to the house of Israel. So the scroll represents the word of God, which supplies the content of his message.
The task is easier than it might have been, because Ezekiel is not being sent "to a people of foreign speech and a hard language", but to his own
countrymen, who should be able to understand him.
Nevertheless, he will find them unwilling to listen, because "the house of Israel are of a hard forehead and of a stubborn heart".
The taste of the scroll had been sweet, because it was the Word of God.
But Ezekiel leaves the meeting "in bitterness of my heart in the heat of my spirit", which is very understandable, given the terms of his task.
He's advised later that he will be addressing two kinds of people, viz. the "wicked" and those among the "righteous" who have fallen into sin. But the
task in both cases is to call them to repentance- (Ezekiel ch3, passim)
The encounter in this chapter is partly modelled on both meetings.
John sees "a mighty angel coming down from heaven".
Ther's a rainbow over his head, just as there was a rainbow around God's throne in ch4, which recalls the "appearance of brightness" in Ezekiel's
His face is like the sun, and he comes wrapped in a cloud, which recalls what ch1 says about the Son of Man.
His legs are like "pillars of fire", which echoes the brightness and fire found in both the Old Testament visions.
Then he sets one foot on the sea and one foot on the land, thus firmly demonstrating sovereignty over both regions.
Including, presumably, the Beast that comes out of the sea and the Beast that comes out of the land, as described in ch13.
Then he calls out with a loud voice, like a lion roaring (which may remind us of "the lion of the tribe of Judah" mentioned in ch5).
Seven thunders answer him, but John isn't allowed to write down what they say.
Which seems very strange.
Not because of the secrecy (we expect God to have secrets), but because it prompts the question;
Why is John hearing
these words, in the first place, if he's not allowed to report them?
There must be something we're intended to learn from the fact
that these thunders have spoken, independent of the actual content.
"Seven" is the number which points us towards God, so the voice of seven thunders would have to be God's voice, the expression of God's will.
The most obvious possibility is that he's expressing his will for judgement (and we have no "need to know" about the details).
In response (it seems) to the seven thunders, the angel lifts up his hand to heaven and swears an oath "by him who lives for ever and ever", the
Creator of heaven, the earth, and the sea (which is the usual three-way division of the universe found in Revelation).
He swears that in the time when the seventh trumpet sounds there will be "time no longer"- KAIROS OUKETI, sometimes translated as "no more delay".
Then "the mystery of God should be fulfilled".
This is the moment when he "updates" the Daniel vision.
It's a declaration that the period of "a time (KAIROS), two times, and half a time", as announced by the angel in Daniell's vision, would then be
brought to an end.
It implies that the world would then see what was promised in Daniel relating to the end of that period.
That is, following the intervention of God, the power of the hostile ruler would be overthrown.
And, in consequence, "the shattering of the power of the holy people" would come to an end.
So if the seven thunders are giving a decision for judgement, the sounding of the seventh trumpet looks like the moment when the decision comes into
John is now told to take the scroll, which we've already seen in the angel's hand, and to eat it.
He's told that "You must again prophesy about many peoples and nations and tongues and kings".
This is the same kind of instruction that Ezekiel was given, which is why the voice from heaven says "again" (ie, "this is something which has
But there's an "updating" of Ezekiel's vision in the fact that John will be addressing the world at large, people of many tongues; whereas Ezekiel, of
course, was explicitly promised that he was not
sent "to a people of foreign speech".
With that exception, I think we can assume that his mission would be the same as Ezekiel's.
Let me see; that should mean that the message which God has given him should contain "words of lamentation and mourning and woe".
He would be sent both to the "wicked" and to those among the "righteous" who had fallen into sin, and his task in both cases would be to call them to
But he would presumably find that the peoples of the world were "of a hard forehead and of a stubborn heart", and that they would be unwilling to
listen to him.
This mission , the final call to repentance, is made appropriate by the imminent judgement implied in the prospect of the "seventh trumpet". If the
kingdom of the Beast is going to be cleared away, then this would be their final opportunity.
So, on the assumption that the episodes in this chapter follow on from each other, I think I can offer a rough translation of these exchanges;
Angel to thunders; "What do you think? Shall we go ahead?"
Thunders to angel; "Yes, the time has come. You must [details redacted]"
Angel to world; "Attention, please! With effect from the sounding of the next trumpet, the kingdoms of this world are going to be wound up".
Heaven to John; "Meanwhile, you go and give them a final warning".
The story of the "two Witnesses" in the next chapter looks like another version of the same mission.
So we might see John's mission and their mission as two different metaphors for what the Chrsitian community would be doing.
Finally, I'd like to suggest a supplementary interpretation of the seven thunders, based on the "covenant" theme.
That "rainbow" symbol first appears in Genesis, as the token of God's covenant with Noah and with the rest of mankind.
We're told that when God showed his power at Sinai "Moses spoke, and God answered him in thunder", and this exchange was the precursor of God's
covenant with Israel.
Perhaps, then, these thunders are pointing towards a new covenant relationship.
The Christian church knows of one new covenant made possible through Christ.
But the description at the end of Revelation suggests that conditions in the "new Jerusalem", in the presence of God, could be a closer fulfilment of
the kind of "new covenant" promised by Jeremiah, when men would not sin ("I will put my law within them"), and evangelism would no longer be
necessary ("for they shall all know me")- Jeremiah ch31 vv33-34
John found the scroll sweet in his mouth, as Ezekiel did, but bitter in his stomach.
No doubt the difficulty of the task, as well as the harshness of the message, would account for the bitterness.
But the implicit promise of the restoration of God's people would be part of the sweetness.
edit on 31-10-2010 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)