SUMMARY.--The Strong Angel. The Open Book. Standing on Sea and Land. The Seven Thunders. The Angel's Oath. John Asked to Devour the Book. Sweet, and Yet Bitter. Called on Again to Prophesy.
The tenth and eleventh chapters should be one chapter. They relate to one series of events. The reader should keep in mind the point reached in the unveiling of the symbols. The sixth trumpet has blown. The Euphratean horsemen have done their work in "a year, a month, a day and an hour." The Greek Empire, the last remnant of the old Roman world known to John, has fallen. The state of "the rest" is described in the last verse of chapter 9. The events beheld in chapters 10 and 11 up to 11:15 belong still to the sixth trumpet. As the Greek Empire fell in 1453, the symbols in these chapters point to events subsequent to that date.
1-3. I saw another mighty angel come down from heaven. This mighty angel was seen in vision and is to be regarded as a symbol. The description is very much like that of the Son of Man in chapter 1. While the whole may signify some momentous movement the similarity of the description implies that Christ comes in that movement. Let the facts stated be observed closely. 1. He is a mighty angel. 2. He comes down from heaven, enveloped in a cloud. 3. The rainbow about his head is the symbol of hope and peace. 4. The shining of his face and feet indicate that he shall spread light and intelligence. 5. His standing on sea and land shows that his mission was to the whole world. 6. The angel holds in his hand an open book. The roll is not only unsealed, but it is unrolled so that it can be read. This open book occupies a very conspicuous place in his work. The book in the angel's hand must be an emblem of some fact. 7. The seventh fact is that when he, standing on land and sea, with the open book in his hand, cried in a loud voice, a command, or proclamation, or a call for attention, the seven thunders uttered their voices. The whole evidently signifies some mighty movement on the earth inaugurated by Christ.
THE FULFILLMENT.--Beginning in the early part of the sixteenth century, within a short time of the date already reached, was a movement which corresponds fully to the symbols. Indeed the REFORMATION might be said to have begun earlier with Wicklif and Huss, but was fully inaugurated in the sixteenth century. It was a movement (1) in which Christ came in spirit; (2) a movement full of peace and hope; (3) a movement to diffuse light; (4) a movement for the whole world; (5) a movement due to the influence of the open book. The Reformation was the work of a book. Whatever the Romish clergy may pretend now, there is no doubt that before the Reformation they had taken the Bible from the people. The whole influence of the Catholic Church was opposed to its circulation, and in many instances persons have been burned for no other crime than having the Bible in their houses. The book was left sealed up in dead languages, and it was impossible for it to be read in the native tongue of any European people. This radiant angel, however, has in his hand a book open, significant of the fact that God's providence the Reformation should present the New Testament, open, to the world.
4. When the seven thunders had uttered their voices, etc. The seven thunders (definite article in the Revision) uttered their voices when the angel cried in a loud voice. John was forbidden to record what they uttered. Certain facts will help us to understand what is meant. 1. The apostate power which had taken away and closed the book of the New Testament was called the seven-hilled city, and is alluded to in Revelation as the woman that sat on seven mountains (chap. 17:9). 2. The word thunder has been constantly used to describe the threatening, blasphemous, and authoritative fulminations issued by the seven-hilled power against its enemies. To illustrate this, Le Bas says in his life of Wiclif, page 198: "The thunders which shook the world when they issued from the seven hills, sent forth an uncertain sound, comparatively faint and powerless, when launched from a region of less devoted sanctity." These ecclesiastical thunders derived their power from the fact that they were hurled from the seven-hilled city. Very appropriately the bulls and anathemas of Rome may then be called the seven thunders. 3. It is a historic fact that the opening of the book by the Reformation, called forth the loudest voices of the seven thunders. The anathemas that had been wont to shake the nations were hurled at Luther and his supporters.
John says that he was about to write what they uttered. His act is symbolic. He becomes himself a part of the symbolism. His act shows that the voices of the seven thunders claimed a record as of divine authority. There was something uttered, and what was uttered was so presented that John was about to record it in the word of God. Then he heard a voice from heaven which bade him seal up what was uttered and write it not. When we remember that the thunders that issued from the Vatican were regarded by the nations as the voice of God, and that the Pope claimed to be the vicar of Christ, we can understand the meaning of John's symbolical purpose to record them as a part of the word of God, and also that of the heavenly voice which forbade them to be written. It simply represents what did take place among the reformers. There was an open book offered to the world. This resulted in the voices of thunder of the seven-hilled city. At first there was a disposition on the part even of Martin Luther, to listen to these thunders as divine, but finally he committed the Papal Bull issued against his teachings to the flames to be rejected, and it was rejected by the Reformers.
5-7. And the angel . . . sware . . . that there should be time no longer. The whole passage means that the time remaining is short, and that in the time of the seventh trumpet angel the whole consummation shall be reached. In response to the anathemas, thunders, and persecutions, called forth by the Reformation, the great angel who stands on both sea and land lifted his hand and uttered his solemn oath that the period of probation, persecution and suffering on the part of the Church, soon shall end. In chapter 6, verse 10 the suffering martyrs of Pagan persecution cry, O Lord, how long? And here to the second great body of martyrs assurance is given that events are hastening to the end. The mystery shall be finished when the seventh angel shall sound.
8-11. Go and take the little book . . . eat it up. I will give a synopsis of the events of the chapter. 1. The angel holds in his hand an open book. 2. He calls attention to it in a loud voice. 3. The seven thunders launch their thunderbolts against the reception of the open book by the world. 4. John is about to record their words, but is forbidden. 5. The angel affirms with an oath, that the duration of the power and terror of the seven thunders shall be short, and that soon the seventh angel shall sound universal redemption and triumph. 6. John is bidden to take the book. 7. He receives it and is told to eat it, or to receive and devour its contents. 8. Its words are sweet like honey. In the nineteenth Psalm the word of the Lord is compared to the sweetness of honey. 9. There are bitter effects that follow. The great object of this angel seems to be to present the open book to the world. The book is mentioned four times in the chapter; twice it is stated that the book was open. John, in behalf of humanity, receives the book; a symbol of the reception of the New Testament in their own tongues, received by the nations as a result of the Reformation. The word of the Lord was received by the people with great eagerness and joy. They found it "sweeter also than honey and the honey comb." But while they devoured the word with great enjoyment, there were bitter effects that followed. Millions, perhaps, in all, were persecuted and put to death because they had accepted the book and suffered it to determine their lives and worship.
There is portrayed last another consequence of eating the book. "Thou must prophesy again before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings." To prophesy is not only to foretell future events, but to declare the message of God. This message had been declared once by the apostles, both in person, and by those who preached their words. Apostolic preaching had almost ceased for many ages before the Reformation. John, the representative of the apostolic body, commanded to prophesy, implies a revival of apostolic preaching among all people and nations.