“At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps. 16:11)
“And the voice which I heard from heaven spake unto me again, and said, Go and take the little book which is open in the hand of the angel which standeth upon the sea and upon the earth. And I went unto the angel, and said unto him, Give me the little book. And he said unto me, Take it, and eat it up; and it shall make thy belly bitter, but it shall be in thy mouth sweet as honey. And I took the little book out of the angel’s hand, and ate it up; and it was in my mouth sweet as honey: and as soon as I had eaten it, my belly was bitter. And he said unto me, Thou must prophesy again before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings” (Revelation 10:8–11).
John hears a voice from heaven again, which instructs him to go up to the angel who is straddling earth and sea. When he gets there, he is supposed to take the little open book from the hand of the great angel. And so John obediently approached the angel and said, “Give me the little book.” Given that the angel was immense, the fact that John could take the book and eat it means that it must have truly been tiny compared to the size of the angel.
What happens here is a precise parallel to what happened to Ezekiel. That ancient prophet was addressing the destruction of Jerusalem (also), as accomplished by the Babylonians in 586 B.C.
“Moreover he said unto me, Son of man, eat that thou findest; eat this roll, and go speak unto the house of Israel. So I opened my mouth, and he caused me to eat that roll. And he said unto me, Son of man, cause thy belly to eat, and fill thy bowels with this roll that I give thee. Then did I eat it; and it was in my mouth as honey for sweetness” (Eze. 3:1–3).
The bitterness that John experienced is mentioned a few verses later in Ezekiel.
“So the spirit lifted me up, and took me away, and I went in bitterness, in the heat of my spirit; but the hand of the Lord was strong upon me” (Eze. 3:14).This combination of sweetness and bitterness means that a message of judgment must be both.This combination of sweetness and bitterness means that a message of judgment must be both. The sweetness lies in the vindication of God’s servants. The martyrs under the altar will have their prayer answered. The persecutors will be utterly thrown down. Justice will be done, and the saints of God will say hallelujah. The only time that word is used in the New Testament is some chapters ahead of us in Revelation, when the saints exult in the fact that the smoke of Babylon ascends forever and ever (Rev. 19:3). But at the same time, we remember (also from Ezekiel) that considered in isolation, God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Eze. 33:11). As a stand-alone reality, the stubborn willfulness of the rebel is a genuine tragedy. It is not a tragedy that God will allow them to use in order to emotionally blackmail those who do rejoice in the will of God, but it is a tragedy nonetheless. The stubborn willfulness of the rebel is a genuine tragedy. It is not a tragedy that God will allow them to use in order to emotionally blackmail those who do rejoice in the will of God, but it is a tragedy nonetheless.We see in this passage that John is not just a simple observer. He is told that eating the book, tasting its sweetness, and having his stomach turned by the bitter results of the message, means that he, John, must prophesy again. This book eaten means that John is the prophet.
The book of Revelation continues as a condemnation of the city of Jerusalem, but we see here that the fall of the old system has ramifications for the whole world—the message is for “many peoples, nations, and tongues, and kings.” And this what the destruction of Jerusalem would facilitate—a gospel for the whole world.
Remember that the book of Revelation has three sets of seven. We have seven seals, seven trumpets, and seven bowls. There had been an interlude before the seventh seal was opened, and we are in the midst of a second interlude now, right before the blowing of the seventh trumpet. Before the hammer falls, there is a divine pause, the witnesses confirm their testimony, and then the judgment.