“So I went to the angel and asked him to give me the little scroll. He said to me, ‘Take it and eat it. It will turn your stomach sour, but in your mouth it will be as sweet as honey” (Revelation 10:9, NIV).
Inserted between the sixth and seventh trumpets is an interlude in Chapters 10-11. In the series of judgments described in Revelation 5-16– the seals, the trumpets, and the bowls of the wrath of God– there is always a break or intermission between the sixth and seventh judgment (Chapter 7-seals; Chapters 10-11-trumpets; the Chapter 12-14 interlude is before the sixth and seventh bowls in Chapter 16).
In the first part of this interlude John saw an angel he called a mighty angel coming down from heaven. The mighty angel planted his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land and gave a shout like the roar of a lion. John’s description of this mighty angel–rainbow above his head, face like the sun, shout like the roar of a lion–certainly represents the power of God and dominion over all creation in a way that is distinctive from most other angelic appearances.
The mighty angel is also holding a little scroll in his hand. It’s not clear that this little scroll is the same as the sealed scroll in Chapter 5. The scroll with the seven seals was called simply “a scroll” (Greek biblion, 5:1), while this one is called a little scroll (using a diminutive form, biblaridion, vs. 1, 9, 10). The little scroll, however lies conspicuously open in the angel’s hand (vs. 2, 8) while the scroll in Chapter 5 was sealed.
The simplest explanation is that the scroll John will take from the mighty angel’s hand here is the same as the scroll taken by the Lamb in Chapter 5. Since John has witnessed the breaking of its seals in 6:1–8:5, it’s likely that the scroll should be open.
In Chapter 5 the Lamb took the scroll in the presence of a mighty angel in order to open it. Now, John must now take the open scroll from a mighty angel’s hand in order to fulfill God’s plan.
Then, the mighty angel speaks (described as seven thunders) but John is ordered not to write down what he heard. While God has revealed much to us about the end of time in this Revelation, there are still secrets about eternity that God prefers not to reveal. Although God has revealed the events that lead to the establishment of a new heaven and new earth (Revelation 21:1), we don’t really know what happens after that (perhaps as creatures of time it’s difficult if not impossible for us to conceive of what takes place in eternity).
The mighty angel speaks again promising that when the seventh angel sounds his trumpet (that is, the end of the age) then “the mystery of God will be accomplished, just as he announced to his servants the prophets” (vs. 10:7). In other words when the seventh angel sounds his trumpet your time is up!
The purpose of the mighty angel’s oath is to assure John that the “bad news” of the first six trumpets is not God’s last word. But, in order to transform “bad news” into “good news,” John himself must be drawn into the action and with him all the people of God.
John personally experiences this good news/bad news attribute of the mystery of God in way that is similar to the experience of the prophet Ezekiel (Ezekiel 2:9–3:3). John is told to take the scroll from the angel’s hand and eat it. When he does, it tastes as sweet as honey in his mouth but turns sour in his stomach. (It’s fascinating that John is told to eat the scroll rather than read the scroll, but that is a topic for discussion in another meditation.) After John eats the scroll he must prophesy about many peoples, nations, languages and kings (vs. 11).
Ezekiel too was told to eat a scroll and then go and speak to the house of Israel (Ezek 3:1). When Ezekiel ate the scroll it tasted as sweet as honey, which suggested that Ezekiel’s message would be sweet to him though bitter to his hearers.
John’s experience is a bit more complex than Ezekiel’s. While nothing is said of what is written on the scroll, the message is sweet as honey in John’s mouth and sour in his stomach (v. 10). Even though John (and his fellow prophets) have the privilege of hearing and delivering God’s good news, their prophecies will inevitably bring sorrow and suffering to those who fail to heed its message.
So, the good news that God’s kingdom is being established on Earth will, unfortunately, also be bad news for many.
But in the days when the seventh angel is about to sound his trumpet, the mystery of God will be accomplished, just as he announced to his servants the prophets. (Revelation 10:7, NIV)