Lesson XX (Revelation 10: 1 – 7) The Promise of no More Delay
This chapter is evidently another interlude:
- It is not a continuation of the sixth trumpet, even though the second woe is not announced as past until 11:14.
- Nor does it belong to the seventh trumpet vision, which is not introduced until 11:15.
- This interlude consists of the two closely related parts.
(1) The vision of the mighty angel and his oath.
(2) The vision of John’s rating of the little book that is in the angel’s hand.
- The purpose of the interlude appears to be that it is preparatory to the sounding of the seventh trumpet.
(1) By a message of comfort to the people of God;
(2) By a special preparation of John for further prophetic work.
- Vss. 1 – 3a. The mighty angel:
- “And I saw another mighty angel come down from heaven”:
(1) The standpoint of the prophet appears to be no longer in heaven as in ch. 4:1, for he beholds the angel coming down out of heaven to the earth.
(2) It is “another angel” in distinction from the angels thus far appearing in the Apocalypse, particularly from the trumpet angels.
(3) This angel is seen at once as ”mighty.”
- His description:
(1) He is clothed with a cloud: a robe of judgment, symbolizing power and authority to judge.
(2) There is a rainbow upon his head: sign of God’s covenant in its universal significance; the right to realize this covenant.
(3) His face was as it were the sun: royal majesty and glory. Cf. ch. 1:16.
(4) His feet were as pillars of fire: symbol of wrath and judgment. Cf. Ch. 1:15.
(5) He cried with the roar of a lion: symbol of royal anger and majestic power. Cf. 1:15.
(6) In his hand he had a little book; see about this later on vs. 8.
(7) He set his right foot upon the sea and his left foot upon the earth; symbolizing that all things are under his feet in judgment.
Note. In spite of the many objections that have been raised against this view, we must agree with those interpreters that see in this angel none other than Christ Himself. The objection that it could not be said of Christ that he would swear by God certainly is not applicable to Christ in His human nature: if He prays to God why should He not swear by Him? Nor can it be objected that Christ could not appear as “another angel”: God Himself appeared as an angel to Abraham. On the other hand, the similarity between the description of this angel and that of Christ in ch. 1 is too striking to be denied. Besides, no mere angel has such power and authority as is ascribed to this “mighty angel.” Compare also Daniel 12:7. The Lord appears here without the long priestly robe of ch. 1. He stands here as the King-Judge, Who is on the point of executing judgment.
- Vss. 3b-4. The seven thunders.
- “And when he cried, seven thunders uttered their voices”:
(1) Thunders are symbols of wrath and judgment. Here they are called forth by the voice of the mighty angel to which they are a response.
(2) That they are seven indicates that they have to do with the completion of the Kingdom of God and His covenant.
(3) They evidently utter an intelligible message, for
(a) They “utter voices”;
(b) And John understands them.
- Contents remain a secret:
(1) John is on the point of writing down the message of the seven thunders (vs. 4)
(2) However, a voice from heaven restrains him: “Seal up those things which the seven thunders uttered, and write them not.” The contents must remain hidden.
Note. Many interpreters have made as many conjectures about the contents of the seven thunders. This is quite in violation of the text, which emphasizes that they must remain secret. The passage, therefore, means to convey the message that there are things that had better remain hid from us, and into which we should not pry curiously.
- Vss. 5 – 7. The oath. “And the angel . . . lifted up his hand to heaven.” etc.
- That the angel lifted his (right) hand to heaven is symbolic of his calling upon God.
- He swore by God
(1) As the eternal One: “that liveth for ever and ever.”
(2) As the almighty Creator of all things: earth and sea and heaven and all things they contain. vs. 5
- The contents of the oath:
(1) Negatively: “that there should be time no longer.” This does not mean a cessation of time, but that there should be no more delay, as e.g. at the end of the sixth seal. The end is near, about to come. He will not tarry.
(2) Positively: “in the days of the voice of the seventh angel” etc. vs. 7
(a) The period of the seventh trumpet vision is meant.
(b) In those days the “mystery of God” is to be finished. The mystery of God is the gospel, the promise of salvation, God’s purpose with regard to the Kingdom of heaven and its completion.
(c.) Could be known only through revelation. Hence: “which he hath declared to his servants the prophets.” This refers to the promise as it had been given to God’s people through the prophets of old from the beginning of the world.
LESSON XXI (Revelation 10: 8 – 11) The Vision of the Little Book Eaten
- This passage is the second part of the interlude begun in vs. 1:
- The first part tells of the vision of the mighty angel and his oath that there should be no more delay.
- This second part contains the vision of the eating of the little book that was in the angel’s hand by the prophet John.
- Vs. 8: “And the voice which I heard from heaven spake unto me again,” etc.
- The reference is to the voice that is also mentioned in vs. 4. Whose voice it is that speaks to John from heaven is not mentioned. Here we have another evidence that the standpoint of the prophet is on the earth, and no longer in heaven.
- “and said, Go and take the little book,”
(1) It would be quite impossible to explain this on the assumption that John (in the vision) is still in heaven. How could he actually approach the angel as he is here commanded to do, unless he were on the earth where also the angel is?
(2) As to the little book that is in the angel’s hand we may note the following:
(a) It is evident that this little book is not the same as the book with the seven seals of ch. V:1. Much of the latter had already been revealed to John, and therefore, there was no need of eating that at this point of the revelation John receives. Besides, there is a good deal of difference between the two. The book in the angel’s hand is described as “little,” the sealed book is not. The book mentioned here is open in the angel’s hand, the book of ch. 5:1 is sealed. The book of ch. 5:1 can be taken only by the Lamb, and by no one else; this book John is commanded to take from the angel’s hand.
(b) On the other hand, it is also evident that there is a relation between the two. Both have to do with the things that must come to pass “hereafter.” See vs. 11. And the eating of this little book prepares John to prophesy. Hence, this little book must represent a part of the contents of the book with the seven seals. Nor can there be any doubt, that the part of revelation it contains includes all that must still be revealed to John. This is evident from vs. 11. It contains the prophecy from ch. 11 to the end.
(3) The seer is commanded to “take the little book that is open in the hand of the angel.” Let us note here
(a) That the book is open, so that John is allowed to read the contents, they are not hid from him.
(b) That he is definitely ordered to go to the angel and to take the book. He is not a mere passive instrument in receiving the revelation of the Word of God. Action on his part is required.
(c.) And that it is the voice from heaven (of the Spirit?) that directs him to take the book.
- Vs. 9. “And I went unto the angel, and said unto him, Give me the little book.”
- Notice in what manner John carries out the command to take the little book from the angel’s hand: he approaches the angel and asks for it. This denotes
(1) That the prophet is ready and desirous to receive the revelation of the Word of God.
(2) And the acknowledgement of the fact that he must receive that Word from Christ (the angel) Who must give it to him.
- However, the angel gives John an additional command: “take it and eat it up”! See for similar actions Jer. 15:16, Ezekiel 2:8 ff.
(1) It is not sufficient for John to read the contents of the little book and thus make himself acquainted with it.
(2) On the contrary, he must swallow it, digest it, and assimilate it completely. The Word of God must become part and parcel of himself!
- And the angel also informs him beforehand of the effect this little book will have on the prophet: “and it shall make thy belly bitter, but it shall be in thy mouth sweet as honey.” Notice that the bitterness in the belly is here mentioned first. Compare vs. 10. The meaning of this:
(1) Not that part of the Word of God is sweet and part of it bitter, for the whole book has the twofold effect according to the text.
(2) Certainly not that the Word of God is deceiving.
(3) But that the prophet delights himself in the Word of God and gladly receives it. But he who fills himself with that Word and becomes a witness and doer of it, must expect bitterness according to the flesh in the world.
- Vs. 10: “And I took the little book” etc. This verse merely tells of John’s obeying the command of the angel. Only he naturally describes the effect it has on him in the order of his experience of it:
- Sweet to his taste.
- Bitter in his belly.
- Vs. 11: a. “And he said unto me” etc.
- Here the purpose of the whole transaction of the vision is indicated:
(1) John must prophesy again.
(2) And his prophecy will be of tremendous significance: concerning (“not “before”) people, nations, tongues and many kings.
- For this the prophet must be prepared (by eating the book) in a special way according to the special significance of the things to be revealed.
Lesson XXII (Revelation 11: 1,2) The Measuring of the Temple
- Vs. 1. If we may understand the second woe to be identical with the sixth trumpet, this section, up to vs. 15, belongs to the sixth trumpet. At any rate it is the first part of the prophecy concerning “many people, nations, tongues and kings,” 10:11. The text of the first two verses offers no difficulty.
- “And there was given me a reed like unto a rod.”
(1) This is, of course, done in the vision.
(2) Who gave John the reed is not mentioned.
(3) The reed was simply a measuring stick.
(4) That it was like unto a rod makes it also a symbol of authority and power. Ps. 2:9, Rev. 2:26, 27.
- “And the angel stood, saying (according to the R.V. simply: “and one said”), Rise, and measure the temple, and the altar, and them that worship therein.”
(1) By the temple, is meant here the temple building proper, with the holy place and holy of holies, exclusive of the outer court.
(2) The altar, therefore, is most probably the altar of incense that stood in the holy place.
(3) Notice that the worshippers are presented as being in the temple, the holy place, which in the real temple was open only to the priests.
(4) These John must measure. That this measuring is not for the purpose of ascertaining the size but to indicate and separate the proper dominion of Christ, is evident from:
(a) The fact that the reed is “like unto a rod.”
(b) The fact that also the worshippers must be measured.
- Vs. 2. a. “But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not.”
(1) The court in the temple of Herod, which John must have seen in the vision, was 750 feet square.
(2) This John is told not to measure, indicating that the Lord does not recognize it as properly falling under the “rod” of His kingdom, and separated it from the temple proper and its worshippers in the house of God.
- “For it is given unto the Gentiles, and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months.”
(1) Here the reason is given why the outer court is not measured: it is given or surrendered to the Gentiles.
(2) At the same time a third area is brought into view: the holy city, i.e. Jerusalem. It is called “the holy city” because of its ideal, essential significance as the dwelling place, the throne, the city of God. Ps. 4:4; 48:1, Isa. 1:26, 48:2, 60:14, Neh. 11:1, Jer 3:17, Zech 8:4.
(3) The outer court together with the whole city shall be given over to the Gentiles and trodden under foot by them, that is defiled.
(4) And the period during which this is to take place is indicated as forty-two months.
(a) This is, evidently, a schematic or symbolic number.
(b) It is the same as 1260 days, vs. 3: ch. 12:6, it is also three and a half years, or time and times and half a time, Dan 7:25, Rev 12:14; it is the time of Antichrist. Dan 7:25, Rev. 13:5.
- c) In general it indicates the entire period of the new dispensation, when the Church is in the wilderness, ch. 12:6, for Antichrist is always in the world, for it is “the last hour,” I John 2:18.
(d) Yet there is a special reference to the latter days and the final realization of the antichristian reign.
(e) As to the meaning of the number 42 is 6 (the number of Man) times 7, I.e. the attempt of mere Man to establish the kingdom, which fails as the number 6 indicates: he cannot reach 7 times 7.
Note. There is not much difference with respect to the meaning of this text as such. But the main question is: how must the text be applied? To what does the vision refer? What must especially be determined is, whether the text must be understood as referring to earthly Jerusalem and to the literal temple, or to the spiritual city of God and God’s spiritual house, i.e. to the Church. There are in the main two classes of literal interpretations:
- Those that see in the text a reference to the destruction of Jerusalem in the year of 70 A.D.
- Those that apply it to the temple as, according to them, it will be restored by the Jews in the latter days, and to a literal reign of Antichrist in Jerusalem. We cannot agree with any such literal interpretation, for the following reasons:
- The text itself does not allow of such literal interpretations. The worshippers here are in the temple proper: they never were in the O.T. temple. The temple building is not destroyed, nor occupied by the Gentiles: the literal temple was completely destroyed.
- Because in the N.T. everywhere Jerusalem and the temple unless otherwise indicated, are applied to the Church. I Cor. 3:16, II Cor 6:16, Eph 2:20-22, Gal. 4:25, 26; Heb. 12:22
- Because also the book of Revelation speaks of Jerusalem and temple in the spiritual sense ch. 3:12, ch. 21:2, 10, 22. Hence, we have here a vision of the Church in the world. And in it a distinction is made between the false church (the city), the hypocritical church (the other court), the true church (the temple). And Christ claims and preserve His own, even though many belong to and fall away to Antichrist (the Gentiles).
Lesson XXIII (Revelation11:3, 4) The Two Witnesses
- Vs. 3 a. “And I will give power unto my two witnesses” etc.
(1) Notice that the vision here changes or merges into the spoken Word.
(2) The word “power” does not occur in the original. The meaning is simply: “And I will give unto my two witnesses that they shall prophesy.”
(3) Notice, too, that the two witnesses are here spoken of as well-known. Although they were not mentioned before, they are simply described as “my two witnesses.” Even this already suggests that they are witnesses that are always with the Church in the world.
(4) From the words “my two witnesses” it is also evident that it is Christ Himself that is here speaking. His witnesses they are. A witness is one who receives and delivers testimony. Here they are witnesses of Christ They not only belong to Him, but they bear witness of him, and that at the time that the “holy city” and the court are trodden under the foot of the Gentiles. in the midst of an apostate, antichristian Church it is given to these witnesses to prophesy. That they are two
(a) is surely not to be taken literally (as referring to Enoch and Elijah, for instance; or to the Old Testament and New Testament).
(b) But the number is derived from the fact that they are “the two olive trees.” Section vs. 4
(c.) And it may suggest that they are comparatively few. Also: “in the mouth of two or three witnesses” every word shall be established. The 70 were sent out “two by two.”
- “And they shall prophesy twelve hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth.”
(1) The 1260 days are the same as the 42 months of vs. 2 (42 times 30). That here the period is numbered in days indicates the continuity of the prophesy of the two witnesses: every day they shall prophesy.
(2) To prophesy is not to predict the future merely, but to proclaim the Word of God.
(3) That these two witnesses are clothed in sackcloth denotes their mourning because of the apostate condition of the Church; also their humiliation, reproach and suffering from the world as witnesses of Christ.
Note: All the emphasis here should be given to the words: “I will give.” The Lord Himself is the only author of all prophecy. Without Him there is not the necessary anointing, calling, ability, knowledge, light and faith to prophesy. And this receives emphasis here, because the Church is trodden down by the antichristian philosophy and power. It is a time of apostasy and persecution. But Christ will cause His Word to be proclaimed to and through the Church.
- Vs. 4. A. “These are the two olive trees and the two candle sticks.”
(1) These word are evidently taken from the vision in Zech. 4. At the end of that chapter we read that the two olive trees are “the two anointed ones that stand before the Lord of the whole earth.” vs. 14
(2) In the vision the prophet beholds:
(a) A golden candlestick with seven lamps.
(b) On the top of it, I.e. immediately above it a bowl from which the oil flows through seven pipes to each lamp (see R.V.: “there are seven pipes to each of the lamps”).
(c.) And on each side of the bowl an olive tree from which the oil flows into the bowl, and thence into the lamps.
(3) Meaning of the vision:
(a) The candlestick is the Church or the kingdom of God, as a light in the world.
(b) The vision intends to teach in general, that the Church can be built and surely will be built and preserved in the midst of and over against the hostile world-power (the “great mountain” vs. 7) by the Spirit of the Lord, and not by the oil, without which the candlestick means nothing and the lamps cannot give their light: the grace of the Spirit.
(c.) However, this grace is administered to the Church by means of the two olive trees, that are “the anointed ones,” I.e. at that time Zerubbabel, the prince, and Joshua, the high priest, but in their official capacity; hence: the office bearers
(4) Application of this vision to the two witnesses in our test:
(a) Here also the two witnessses are “the two olive trees”, I.e. the anointed ones, the office bearers, particularly the ministers of the Word, through whom God will bless His Church and administer the grace of the knowledge of His Word to His people.
(b) Only notice, that they are also the two candlesticks, i.e. the Church (two here, not one, or seven, because they are identified with the two witnesses), indicating the close connection between them and the Church. Through the ministry Christ blesses His Church; and through the ministry the whole Church witnesses and prophesies.
- “Standing before the God of the earth.
- God is God of the earth, I.e. of the earth and its fullness and its people. He is the Lord of all.
- To stand before Him means that the two witnesses represent Him, speak as before His face, His Word.
- Hence they speak with highest authority, and the God of the earth shall realize their Word.