The Angel and the Little Book
1 I saw another strong angel coming down out of heaven, clothed with a cloud; and the rainbow was upon his head, and his face was like the sun, and his feet like pillars of fire; 2 and he had in his hand a little book which was open. He placed his right foot on the sea and his left on the land; 3 and he cried out with a loud voice, as when a lion roars; and when he had cried out, the seven peals of thunder uttered their voices. 4 When the seven peals of thunder had spoken, I was about to write; 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.” 5 Then the angel whom I saw standing on the sea and on the land lifted up his right hand to heaven, 6 and swore by Him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and the things in it, and the earth and the things in it, and the sea and the things in it, that there will be delay no longer, 7 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.
8 Then 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.” 9 So I went to the angel, telling him to give me the little book. And he *said to me, “Take it and eat it; it will make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be sweet as honey.” 10 I took the little book out of the angel’s hand and ate it, and in my mouth it was sweet as honey; and when I had eaten it, my stomach was made bitter. 11 And they *said to me, “You must prophesy again concerning many peoples and nations and tongues and kings.”
In studying chapter 10 I learned that Christians question and disagree about the identity of the strong (mighty) angel:
Is he simply an angelic being who reflects God’s glory to an extraordinary degree, or
Is he Christ Himself?
In his book, More than Conquerors, William Hendriksen argues that this is an angel. John Gill in Exposition of the Whole Bible (see below), G.K. Beale in Revelation: A Shorter Commentary, and E.B. Elliott in HORAE APOCALYPTICAE argue that the angel is the Lord.
Most certainly we know that this strong angel’s glorious and terrible words are of utmost importance.
9 Then I looked, and behold, a hand was extended to me; and lo, a scroll was in it. 10 When He spread it out before me, it was written on the front and back, and written on it were lamentations, mourning and woe.
1 Then He said to me, “Son of man, eat what you find; eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel.” 2 So I opened my mouth, and He fed me this scroll. 3 He said to me, “Son of man, feed your stomach and fill your body with this scroll which I am giving you.” Then I ate it, and it was sweet as honey in my mouth.
1 Then I lifted up my eyes again and looked, and behold, there was a flying scroll. 2 And he said to me, “What do you see?” And I answered, “I see a flying scroll; its length is twenty cubits and its width ten cubits.” 3 Then he said to me, “This is the curse that is going forth over the face of the whole land; surely everyone who steals will be purged away according to the writing on one side, and everyone who swears will be purged away according to the writing on the other side. 4 I will make it go forth,” declares the Lord of hosts, “and it will enter the house of the thief and the house of the one who swears falsely by My name; and it will spend the night within that house and consume it with its timber and stones.”
1 I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a book written inside and on the back, sealed up with seven seals. 2 And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the book and to break its seals?”
John Gill’s Exposition of the Whole Bible
John Gill was a Baptist pastor, premillennialist, and historicist.
“And I saw another mighty angel, . . . Not any mere man, as Justin the emperor, as some have thought, who sent letters abroad in favour of the orthodox doctrine, against the Arians, which they suppose is meant by the little book open in his right hand; and still less the pope of Rome, whether in the sense of Papists or Protestants, which latter represent him as a tyrant, treading upon men both in the islands and in the continent, and holding forth the book of canons and decrees; rather, as Mr. Daubuz thinks, Luther, with the rest of the reformers, is intended, and especially since the prophecy of this chapter respects the Reformation, which began before the end of the sixth trumpet; and the epithets given to this angel may denote his strength and courage, his divine authority, the protection of him, and the clear doctrine of peace and reconciliation he brought: however, a created angel is not intended: not the angel that made proclamation for the opening of the book, and unsealing it, Revelation 5:2; between which, and having the book in his right hand open, is a wide difference; nor any other, though the epithet “mighty” belongs to angels in common; and though this angel swears by the living God; and though it was an angel by whom Christ signified the things contained in this book to John; but the uncreated Angel, the Lord Jesus Christ, seems rather designed, as appears both by comparing this with Daniel 12:7; and from the power he gave to the two witnesses, Revelation 11:3; which cannot agree with a created angel; and besides, who so proper to hold the book open as he who unloosed the seals, and opened it, and to whom the epithet “mighty” may be applied in the highest sense, as God; and who as man may be said to swear by the living God, and to whom the whole description well agrees? he is sometimes called an Angel simply, Genesis 48:16; sometimes the Angel of the Lord, and who appears to be Jehovah himself, the second Person, Genesis 16:7, compared with Genesis 19:1; and sometimes the Angel of God’s presence, Isaiah 63:9; and the Angel of the great council in the Septuagint on Isaiah 9:6; and the Angel, or messenger, of the covenant, Malachi 3:1; and may be so called, because he is a messenger from God as man and Mediator, being sent by him to declare his will and redeem his people: and he is a “mighty” one; not only as God, being the mighty God, the Almighty, which appears by his creation of all things, and upholding them in their beings; but as Mediator, having all power in heaven and in earth, and being far above all principality, power, and might; and, as man, made strong by God for himself, and for his people: he appears now as “another” angel, distinct from the seven angels who had trumpets given them to sound, and six of which had already sounded; and particularly from the angel of the sixth trumpet, who had just sounded; though some copies, and the Complutensian edition*, leave out the word αλλον, “another”; and very opportunely does he appear for the comfort of his church, when the trumpets that had been blown had brought such desolations upon the empire, western and eastern, and when both the western and eastern antichrists had appeared, and before the seventh trumpet sounds, and brings in the last and greatest woe. . .”
* “Complutensian Polyglot Bible: the first printed polyglot of the entire Bible, initiated and financed by Cardinal Francisco Jiménez de Cisneros (1436–1517) and published by Complutense University in Alcalá de Henares, Spain. It includes the first printed editions of the Greek New Testament, the complete Septuagint, and the Targum Onkelos.” (Wiki)
Volume II, Chapter II. Intervention of the Covenant Angel Fulfilled in the Reformation
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Edward Elliott, an “historicist premillennial” (Reformed Books Online), interpreted the vision of Chapter 10 as a portrayal of the commencement of the Reformation.
“The fact is, there exists what I may call documentary, and indeed almost ocular evidence of it, to my own mind singularly striking. It is such, I think, as will not only satisfy us as to the justness of our reference of the opening clause of the vision generally to the Reformation: but will connect it, by certain most remarkable chronological and historical coincidences, with the precise epoch of commencement of that wonderful event. . . the grandest and most glorious, so it is of all others that which was prefigured most fully and circumstantially in the Apocalyptic prophecy.”
Volume III, Chapter III. Epoch of Antichrist’s Triumph, and Christ’s Intervention
Leo X by Raphael
“Just when, on the day of his ascension [inauguration of Pope Leo X], as on a day of high festival, there were exhibited paintings, amidst the applause of congregated Christendom, on which art seemed to have lavished all its ingenuity of decoration: and which, as the devices that might best symbolize these his threefold prerogatives and functions as Christ’s Vicar and impersonator, represented this same usurping Antichrist, in one part as beaming like the new risen sun from heaven upon earth, together with a rainbow to reflect his brightness,— in another as planting one foot on the land and the other on the sea,— in a third as looking and roaring, with the world in his clutch, even as when a lion roars on his prey. Just at this very time it was that there occurred the fulfillment of another symbolic figuration, devised by higher than human art, and evidently in purposed contrast to the former, though pictured above 1400 years before it:— a figuration which, in the visions of Patmos, exhibited Christ to St. John as now at length intervening, after long forbearance, in vindication of his own rights, truth, and people:— revealing Himself as the true Covenant Angel from heaven, with his face shining as the sun, and a rainbow about his head, planting moreover his right foot on the sea, his left on the land, and crying with a loud voice, as when a lion roars. . . so was the Lord represented as now “coming down to fight for Mount Zion,” against Antichrist and Antichrist’s assembled Council.
“And whereas the Papal lion’s voice, in vindication of his usurping claims on the church and world, and to counteract all opposition, enacted decrees, as we have seen, preventive of the printing of all books on religion except as approved by him, and especially of God’s book the Bible,— preventive also of all preaching, except in accordance with the established Roman interpretations of Scripture,— and further enjoining that there should be no mention by them of the coming of Antichrist, or of the time of the great final judgment:
“So in the Apocalyptic vision there was prefigured, as what would take place at the same precise epoch, Christ’s own opening to the world of that forbidden book of God,— his revival of that forbidden gospel preaching,— his exposure of Antichrist, as even then alive in the Popes,— and revelation too (so far as man might know it) of the time of the fated judgment, as involving the Papal destruction, and placed at but one Apocalyptic Trumpet’s interval from the chronological epoch of the intervention here symbolized.— All these things, I say, were foreshadowed in the vision before us: and in the Protestant Reformation all these things, as we shall see, were done.”
Halley’s Bible Handbook, 1965, pp. 720-721
The CAPS for emphasis are in the original.
“In chapter 5 it was a Sealed Book. Here it is an Open Book. The Open Book is one of the messages of the Sealed Book, for it appears under the Sixth Trumpet, which came out of the Seventh Seal. . .
“But, in addition to this, may it not be that the ‘Little Book OPEN,’ itself, in its very phraseology, coming, as it does, just before the Seventh Trumpet, may have been a symbolic hint that there would be an Era of The OPEN BOOK just preceding the End of the World?
“If so, it exactly fits in with the course of History. Strange as it may seem, the Church, in the Middle Ages, TOOK THE BIBLE FROM THE PEOPLE.
“But the Protestant Reformation, under the leadership of Martin Luther, RESTORED THE BIBLE TO THE PEOPLE. And the Invention of Printing, about that time, contributed greatly toward making it a Book of the People. And Modern History has been an Era of the OPEN BOOK, in a sense never before known. . .”
We’ve all seen that in our own time the Bible has been attacked constantly, not only as before by being kept from people, but by having its authority and trustworthiness undermined in every evil way that man can invent.