A Sweet-and-Bitter Message
Vision 6—Revelation 10:1–11:19
Subject: The vision of the little scroll; temple experiences; the blowing of the seventh trumpet
Time of fulfillment: From the enthronement of Jesus in 1914 to the great tribulation
1, 2. (a) In what did the second woe result, and when will this woe be declared over? (b) Whom does John now see descending from heaven?
THE second woe has been devastating. It has plagued Christendom and her leaders, “a third of the men,” who are thus exposed as being spiritually dead. (Revelation 9:15) John must have wondered after that what the third woe could possibly bring. But wait! The second woe is not yet finished—not until we reach the point recorded at Revelation 11:14. Before then, John is to witness a turn of events in which he himself takes an active part. It begins with an awe-inspiring sight:
2 “And I saw another strong angel descending from heaven, arrayed with a cloud, and a rainbow was upon his head, and his face was as the sun, and his feet were as fiery pillars.”—Revelation 10:1.
3. (a) Who is the “strong angel”? (b) What is the significance of the rainbow upon his head?
3 Who is this “strong angel”? It is evidently the glorified Jesus Christ in another role. He is arrayed with a cloud of invisibility, which reminds us of John’s earlier words about Jesus: “Look! He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, and those who pierced him.” (Revelation 1:7; compare Matthew 17:2-5.) The rainbow upon his head reminds us of John’s earlier vision of Jehovah’s throne, with its “rainbow like an emerald in appearance.” (Revelation 4:3; compare Ezekiel 1:28.) That rainbow suggested the serenity and peace surrounding God’s throne. In the same way, this rainbow on the angel’s head would identify him as a special peace messenger, Jehovah’s foretold “Prince of Peace.”—Isaiah 9:6, 7.
4. What is denoted (a) by the face of the strong angel being “as the sun”? (b) by the angel’s feet being “as fiery pillars”?
4 The face of the strong angel was “as the sun.” Earlier, in his vision of Jesus at the divine temple, John had noted that Jesus’ countenance was “as the sun when it shines in its power.” (Revelation 1:16) Jesus, as “the sun of righteousness,” shines forth with healing in his wings for the benefit of those who fear Jehovah’s name. (Malachi 4:2) Not only the face but also the feet of this angel are glorious, “as fiery pillars.” His firm stance is that of the One to whom Jehovah has given “all authority . . . in heaven and on the earth.”—Matthew 28:18; Revelation 1:14, 15.
5. What does John see in the hand of the strong angel?
5 John observes further: “And he had in his hand a little scroll opened. And he set his right foot upon the sea, but his left one upon the earth.” (Revelation 10:2) Another scroll? Yes, but this time it is not sealed. With John, we can expect soon to see further thrilling disclosures. First, though, we are given the setting for what is to follow.
6. (a) Why is it appropriate that Jesus’ feet are upon the earth and the sea? (b) When was Psalm 8:5-8 completely fulfilled?
6 Let us return to the description of Jesus. His fiery feet are upon the earth and the sea, over which he now exercises full authority. It is just as stated in the prophetic psalm: “You [Jehovah] also proceeded to make him [Jesus] a little less than godlike ones, and with glory and splendor you then crowned him. You make him dominate over the works of your hands; everything you have put under his feet: small cattle and oxen, all of them, and also the beasts of the open field, the birds of heaven and the fish of the sea, anything passing through the paths of the seas.” (Psalm 8:5-8; see also Hebrews 2:5-9.) This psalm was completely fulfilled in 1914, when Jesus was installed as King of God’s Kingdom and the time of the end began. Thus, what John sees here in vision applies since that year.—Psalm 110:1-6; Acts 2:34-36; Daniel 12:4.
The Seven Thunders
7. In what manner does the strong angel cry out, and what is the significance of his cry?
7 John’s contemplation of this strong angel is interrupted by the angel himself: “And he [the angel] cried out with a loud voice just as when a lion roars. And when he cried out, the seven thunders uttered their own voices.” (Revelation 10:3) Such a powerful shout would catch John’s attention, confirming that Jesus is truly “the Lion that is of the tribe of Judah.” (Revelation 5:5) John would also be aware that Jehovah, too, is sometimes said to “roar.” Jehovah’s roaring prophetically heralds the regathering of spiritual Israel and the coming of the destructive “day of Jehovah.” (Hosea 11:10; Joel 3:14, 16; Amos 1:2; 3:7, 8) Clearly, then, the lionlike cry of this strong angel forebodes similar great events for the sea and the earth. It calls on the seven thunders to speak.
8. What are the ‘voices of the seven thunders’?
8 John has previously heard thunders proceeding from the very throne of Jehovah. (Revelation 4:5) Back in David’s day, literal thunder was at times spoken of as “the voice of Jehovah.” (Psalm 29:3) When Jehovah audibly proclaimed his purpose to glorify his own name in the days of Jesus’ earthly ministry, to many it sounded like thunder. (John 12:28, 29) Therefore, it is reasonable to conclude that the ‘voices of the seven thunders’ are Jehovah’s own expression of his purposes. The fact that there were “seven” thunders suggests the completeness of what John heard.
9. What does a voice out of heaven command?
9 But listen! Another voice sounds forth. It brings a command that must seem strange to John: “Now when the seven thunders spoke, I was at the point of writing; but I heard a voice out of heaven say: ‘Seal up the things the seven thunders spoke, and do not write them down.’” (Revelation 10:4) John must have been anxious to hear and record those thunderous messages, just as the John class today has waited eagerly for Jehovah to disclose his divine purposes for publication. Such revelations come only at Jehovah’s appointed time.—Luke 12:42; see also Daniel 12:8, 9.
The Finish of the Sacred Secret
10. By whom does the strong angel swear, and to what pronouncement?
10 Meantime, Jehovah has another commission for John. After the seven thunders have sounded, the strong angel speaks again: “And the angel that I saw standing on the sea and on the earth raised his right hand to heaven, and by the One who lives forever and ever, who created the heaven and the things in it and the earth and the things in it and the sea and the things in it, he swore: ‘There will be no delay any longer.’” (Revelation 10:5, 6) By whom does the strong angel swear? The glorified Jesus swears, not by himself, but by the highest Authority of all, Jehovah, the immortal Creator of the heavens and the earth. (Isaiah 45:12, 18) With this oath, the angel assures John that there will be no further delay on God’s part.
11, 12. (a) What is meant by there being “no delay any longer”? (b) What is brought to a finish?
11 The Greek word here translated “delay” is khroʹnos, which literally means “time.” Some have thus felt that this declaration of the angel should be translated: “There will be no more time,” as though time as we know it will end. But the word khroʹnos here is used without a definite article. So it does not mean time in general but, rather, “a time” or “a period of time.” In other words, there will be no further period of time (or, delay) by Jehovah. A Greek verb derived from khroʹnos is used also at Hebrews 10:37, where Paul, quoting from Habakkuk 2:3, 4, writes that “he who is coming . . . will not delay.”
12 “No delay any longer”—how those words appeal to the aging John class today! In what respect is there no delay? John informs us: “But in the days of the sounding of the seventh angel, when he is about to blow his trumpet, the sacred secret of God according to the good news which he declared to his own slaves the prophets is indeed brought to a finish.” (Revelation 10:7) Jehovah’s time is here for bringing his sacred secret to its happy climax, with glorious success!
13. What is the sacred secret of God?
13 What is this sacred secret? It involves the seed first promised in Eden, which proved primarily to be Jesus Christ. (Genesis 3:15; 1 Timothy 3:16) It also has to do with the identity of the woman out of whom the Seed comes. (Isaiah 54:1; Galatians 4:26-28) Further, it takes in the secondary members of the seed class and the Kingdom in which the Seed reigns. (Luke 8:10; Ephesians 3:3-9; Colossians 1:26, 27; 2:2; Revelation 1:5, 6) The good news about this unique heavenly Kingdom must be preached in all the earth during the time of the end.—Matthew 24:14.
14. Why is the third woe linked with God’s Kingdom?
14 Surely, this is the very best of news. Yet, at Revelation 11:14, 15, the third woe is linked with the Kingdom. Why? Because for those of mankind who prefer Satan’s system of things, the trumpeting forth of the good news that the sacred secret of God is brought to a finish—that is, God’s Messianic Kingdom is here—is woeful news. (Compare 2 Corinthians 2:16.) It means that the world arrangement that they like so well is near to being destroyed. The voices of the seven thunders, containing such ominous storm warnings, become clearer and louder with the approach of Jehovah’s great day of vengeance.—Zephaniah 1:14-18.
The Opened Scroll
15. What do the voice out of heaven and the strong angel tell John, and what is the effect on John?
15 While John is waiting for the blowing of this seventh trumpet and the bringing to a finish of the sacred secret of God, he is given a further assignment: “And the voice that I heard out of heaven is speaking again with me and saying: ‘Go, take the opened scroll that is in the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the earth.’ And I went away to the angel and told him to give me the little scroll. And he said to me: ‘Take it and eat it up, and it will make your belly bitter, but in your mouth it will be sweet as honey.’ And I took the little scroll out of the hand of the angel and ate it up, and in my mouth it was sweet as honey; but when I had eaten it up, my belly was made bitter. And they say to me: ‘You must prophesy again with regard to peoples and nations and tongues and many kings.’”—Revelation 10:8-11.
16. (a) How did the prophet Ezekiel have an experience similar to John’s? (b) Why did the little scroll taste sweet to John, but why was it bitter to digest?
16 John’s experience is rather similar to that of the prophet Ezekiel during his exile in the land of Babylonia. He too was commanded to eat a scroll that tasted sweet in his mouth. But when it filled his stomach, it made him responsible to foretell bitter things for the rebellious house of Israel. (Ezekiel 2:8–3:15) The opened scroll that the glorified Jesus Christ gives to John is likewise a divine message. John is to preach regarding “peoples and nations and tongues and many kings.” To feed upon this scroll is sweet for him because it is from a divine source. (Compare Psalm 119:103; Jeremiah 15:15, 16.) But he finds it bitter to digest because—as previously with Ezekiel—it foretells unsavory things for rebellious humans.—Psalm 145:20.
17. (a) Who are the ones who tell John to prophesy “again,” and what does this mean? (b) When was the dramatic portrayal seen by John due to be fulfilled?
17 The ones who tell John to prophesy again are doubtless Jehovah God and Jesus Christ. John, although exiled on the island of Patmos, has already prophesied regarding peoples, nations, tongues, and kings through the information recorded so far in the book of Revelation. The word “again” means that he must write and publish the rest of the information recorded in the book of Revelation. But remember, John is here actually participating in the prophetic vision. What he records is, in fact, a prophecy to be fulfilled after 1914, when the strong angel takes up his position astride the earth and the sea. What, then, does this dramatic portrayal mean to the John class today?
The Little Scroll Today
18. At the beginning of the Lord’s day, what interest did the John class show in the book of Revelation?
18 What John sees foreshadows remarkably the experience of the John class at the beginning of the Lord’s day. Their understanding of Jehovah’s purposes, including the implication of the seven thunders, was then incomplete. Nevertheless, they had a deep interest in Revelation, and Charles Taze Russell had commented on many parts of it during his lifetime. After his death in 1916, many of his writings were collected and published in a book entitled The Finished Mystery. In time, though, this book proved to be unsatisfactory as an explanation of Revelation. The remnant of Christ’s brothers had to wait a while longer, until the visions started to be fulfilled, for an accurate understanding of that inspired record.
19. (a) How was the John class used by Jehovah God even before the voices of the seven thunders were fully published? (b) When was the John class given the opened little scroll, and what did this mean for them?
19 Like John, however, they were used by Jehovah even before the voices of the seven thunders were fully published. They had preached diligently for 40 years before 1914, and they had struggled to stay active during the first world war. They had proved to be the ones who, when the master arrived, were found to be giving the domestics food at the proper time. (Matthew 24:45-47) Thus, in 1919 they were the ones who were given the opened little scroll—that is, an open message to preach to mankind. Like Ezekiel they had a message for an unfaithful organization—Christendom—that claimed to be serving God but, in fact, was not. Like John they had to preach some more regarding “peoples and nations and tongues and many kings.”
20. What did John’s eating up the scroll picture?
20 John’s eating up the scroll pictured that Jesus’ brothers accepted this assignment. It became a part of them to the extent that they were now identified with this portion of God’s inspired Word, drawing nourishment from it. But what they had to preach contained expressions of Jehovah’s judgments that were unpalatable to many of mankind. Indeed, it included the plagues foretold in Revelation chapter 8. It was sweet, however, to these sincere Christians to know those judgments and to realize that they were again being used by Jehovah in proclaiming them.—Psalm 19:9, 10.
21. (a) How has the message of the little scroll become sweet also to the great crowd? (b) Why is the good news bad news for opponents?
21 In time, the message of this scroll also became sweet to the “great crowd . . . out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues” who were found to be sighing on account of the detestable things they saw being done in Christendom. (Revelation 7:9; Ezekiel 9:4) These, too, vigorously proclaim the good news, using sweet, gracious words to describe Jehovah’s marvelous provision for sheeplike Christians. (Psalm 37:11, 29; Colossians 4:6) But to opponents, this is bad news. Why? It means that the system in which they trust—and which may even have brought them a transitory satisfaction—must go. For them, the good news spells doom.—Philippians 1:27, 28; compare Deuteronomy 28:15; 2 Corinthians 2:15, 16.
[Pictures on page 160]
The John class and their associates proclaim a sweet-and-bitter message to all mankind