This chapter is an introduction to the latter part of the
prophecies of this book. Whether what is contained between this and the sounding
of the seventh trumpet (11:15) be a distinct prophecy from the other, or only a
more general account of some of the principal things included in the other, is
disputed by our curious enquirers into these abstruse writings. However, here we
have, I. A remarkable description of a very glorious angel with an open book in
his hand (v. 1-3). II. An account of seven thunders which the apostle heard, as
echoing to the voice of this angel, and communicating some discoveries, which
the apostle was not yet allowed to write (v. 4). III. The solemn oath taken by
him who had the book in his hand (v. 5-7). IV. The charge given to the apostle,
and observed by him (v. 8-11).
Here we have an account of another vision the apostle was
favoured with, between the sounding of the sixth trumpet and that of the
seventh. And we observe,
I. The person who was principally concerned in communicating
this discovery to Johnan angel from heaven, another mighty angel, who
is so set forth as would induce one to think it could be no other than our Lord
and Saviour Jesus Christ! 1. He was clothed with a cloud: he veils his
glory, which is too great for mortality to behold; and he throws a veil upon his
dispensations. Clouds and darkness are round about him. 2. A rainbow
was upon his head; he is always mindful of his covenant, and, when his
conduct is most mysterious, yet it is perfectly just and faithful. 3. His
face was as the sun, all bright, and full of lustre and majesty, ch. 1:16.
4. His feet were as pillars of fire; all his ways, both of grace and
providence, are pure and steady.
II. His station and posture: He set his right foot upon the
sea and his left foot upon the earth, to show the absolute power and
dominion he had over the world. And he held in his hand a little book opened,
probably the same that was before sealed, but was now opened, and gradually
fulfilled by him.
III. His awful voice: He cried aloud, as when a lion roareth
(v. 3), and his awful voice was echoed by seven thunders, seven solemn
and terrible ways of discovering the mind of God.
IV. The prohibition given to the apostle, that he should not
publish, but conceal what he had learned from the seven thunders, v. 4. The
apostle was for preserving and publishing every thing he saw and heard in these
visions, but the time had not yet come.
V. The solemn oath taken by this mighty angel. 1. The manner of
his swearing: He lifted up his hand to heaven, and swore by him that liveth
for ever, by himself, as God often has done, or by God as God, to whom he,
as Lord, Redeemer, and ruler of the world, now appeals. 2. The matter of the
oath: that there shall be time no longer; either, (1.) That there shall
be now no longer delay in fulfilling the predictions of this book than till the
last angel should sound; then every thing should be put into speedy execution: the
mystery of God shall be finished, v. 7. Or, (2.) That when this mystery of
God is finished time itself shall be no more, as being the measure of things
that are in a mutable changing state; but all things shall be at length for ever
fixed, and so time itself swallowed up in eternity.
Here we have, I. A strict charge given to the apostle, which
was, 1. That he should go and take the little book out of the hands of
that mighty angel mentioned before. This charge was given, not by the angel
himself who stood upon the earth, but by the same voice from heaven that in the
fourth verse had lain an injunction upon him not to write what he had discerned
by the seven thunders. 2. To eat the book; this part of the charge was given by
the angel himself, hinting to the apostle that before he should publish what he
had discovered he must more thoroughly digest the predictions, and be in himself
suitably affected with them.
II. An account of the taste and relish which this little book
would have, when the apostle had taken it in; at first, while in his mouth,
sweet. All persons feel a pleasure in looking into future events, and in
having them foretold; and all good men love to receive a word from God, of what
import soever it be. But, when this book of prophecy was more thoroughly
digested by the apostle, the contents would be bitter; these were things so
awful and terrible, such grievous persecutions of the people of God, and such
desolation made in the earth, that the foresight and foreknowledge of them would
not be pleasant, but painful to the mind of the apostle: thus was Ezekiel's
prophecy to him, ch. 3:3.
III. The apostle's discharge of the duty he was called to (v.
10): He took the little book out of the angel's hand, and ate it up,
and he found the relish to be as was told him. 1. It becomes the servants of God
to digest in their own souls the messages they bring to others in his name, and
to be suitably affected therewith themselves. 2. It becomes them to deliver
every message with which they are charged, whether pleasing or unpleasing to
men. That which is least pleasing may be most profitable; however, God's
messengers must not keep back any part of the counsel of God.
IV. The apostle is made to know that this book of prophecy,
which he had now taken in, was not given him merely to gratify his own
curiosity, or to affect him with pleasure or pain, but to be communicated by him
to the world. Here his prophetical commission seems to be renewed, and he is
ordered to prepare for another embassy, to convey those declarations of the mind
and will of God which are of great importance to all the world, and to the
highest and greatest men in the world, and such should be read and recorded in
many languages. This indeed is the case; we have them in our language, and are
all obliged to attend to them, humbly to enquire into the meaning of them, and
firmly to believe that every thing shall have its accomplishment in the proper
time; and, when the prophecies shall be fulfilled, the sense and truth of them
will appear, and the omniscience, power, and faithfulness of the great God will