1 Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven, wrapped in a cloud, with a rainbow over his head, and his face was like the sun, and his legs like pillars of fire. 2 He had a little scroll open in his hand. And he set his right foot on the sea, and his left foot on the land, 3 and called out with a loud voice, like a lion roaring. When he called out, the seven thunders sounded. 4 And when the seven thunders had sounded, I was about to write, but I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Seal up what the seven thunders have said, and do not write it down.” 5 And the angel whom I saw standing on the sea and on the land raised his right hand to heaven 6 and swore by him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and what is in it, the earth and what is in it, and the sea and what is in it, that there would be no more delay, 7 but that in the days of the trumpet call to be sounded by the seventh angel, the mystery of God would be fulfilled, just as he announced to his servants the prophets. – Revelation 10:1-7 ESV
John sees yet another angel. And while some have conjectured that this particular angel must be a representation of Jesus, it seems to make more sense that it is as John says, just “another angel.” It is a mighty angel, but an angel nonetheless. The Greek word translated as “another” is allon, and it means “another of the same kind.” In verse five, John describes this angel raising his right hand and swearing “by him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and what is in it, the earth and what is in it, and the sea and what is in it” (Revelation 10:5 ESV). Since Jesus played a major role in the creation of all things and is Himself God, it would make no sense for Him to swear to Himself (see John 1:2-3).
As has been the case before, John describes this powerful angel in dramatic terms. He is “wrapped in a cloud, with a rainbow over his head” and his face was as bright as the sun, and his legs shone like pillars of fire. All of this imagery is important and tells us something, not only about the angel, but about the nature of his mission. He comes down out of heaven, a clear indication that he has been sent by God. He is operating under the sovereign authority of God. And he is wrapped in a cloud. The Greek word is periballō, which literally means “to wrap oneself with.” He is surrounded by a cloud. It is the same kind of scene Jesus says will take place when He returns,
“And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” – Luke 21:27 ESV
Clouds are closely associated with Jesus and His return. In verse seven of chapter 1, John provides a powerful reminder to the seven churches, telling them, “Behold, he is coming with the clouds.” When Jesus had given His disciples their final commission, He departed from them, and Luke records, “as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight” (Acts 1:9 ESV). And the angels assured the disciples, that He “will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11 ESV). So, this angel arrive wrapped or cloaked in a cloud as a not-so-subtle reminder that Jesus is coming. It is a preface to the greater moment to come. And the rainbow over the angel’s head is a symbol of God’s faithfulness and mercy. His feet and legs appear to John like twin pillars of fire, indicating God’s purifying judgment. He stands with one foot on the sea and the other on the land, creating a contact point with all of God’s creation. There is no region of earth that will not be impacted by what is to come. And from his position of authority and divine power, he calls out in a loud voice, like a lion roaring. It is loud and fearful sounding. And accompanying the voice of the angel are the sounds of seven separate thunders.
This is yet another one of those indescribable, yet unforgettable scenes that John is given the privilege of witnessing. It is awe-inspiring and intended to be attention-getting. Something big is about to happen. While John has already witnessed and described some of the most unbelievable scenes imaginable, there is more to come. And John stands ready to record what he sees and hears. But something strange happens. As John stands poised with pen in hand, a voice calls out from heaven, “Seal up what the seven thunders have said, and do not write it down” (Revelation 10:4 ESV). Evidently, John is able to discern the messages in the seven different thunders. but is forbidden to write them down. Instead, he’s told to seal them. The Greek word is sphragizō, and it conveys the idea of sealing with the intent of concealing. This poses an interesting dilemma. Did John write them down and then seal them? It would seem from the text that John was about to write them down, when the voice had sounded. So, if he never had the opportunity to write down what he heard, what was it he sealed? It would appear that John was forced to keep the content of the seven thunders sealed in his own mind. He had heard their message, but was not allowed to convey their content.
And there is another aspect to John’s vision that is easily overlooked in the fantastic imagery surrounding the angel’s arrival. In his hand, the angel held a biblaridion, a little scroll or book. But its content is never divulged. It most obviously contained information, but we are never told what it was. And as far as we can tell, the message contained in that little book is never revealed to us anywhere in the book of Revelation. It remains a mystery. And while the entire book of Revelation can easily come across as one giant mystery, there is much that God reveals to us in its pages. He graciously conveys to us His once-hidden plans for the future of the world. But there are still things that God keeps hidden from our view. He does not divulge all that He knows or all that He has planned. We are still His creatures and, as such, we are incapable of comprehending all the mysteries of God. And it should cause us to cry out with Paul, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” (Romans 11:33 ESV).
We may not know the content of the little book or the messages behind the seven thunders. but we do know the purpose behind the angel’s vow or oath sworn before God. He pledges that there will be no more delay. The mystery of God is about to be fulfilled. Things are about to heat up and speed up. The coming day of God’s final judgment is nearing. Everything John has seen up to this point has been nothing more than a precursor to the main event. And all the anticipation and expectations of creation will be met. Paul tells us that even nature longs to see this day’s arrival:
20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. – Romans 8:20-22 ESV
There is yet one more trumpet to sound and, with it, the end will be ushered in. The long-anticipated day of the Lord’s return will arrive, and He will bring the judgment and justice of God to bear on the earth. There will be a grand climax to all the calamities befalling earth and its inhabitants. The judgments will end with one final, irrevocable judgment. And the mystery of God will be fulfilled. There is much about God we do not understand or know. There are aspects of His divine plan that have remained hidden from our view. And while John has been given the privilege of looking into the heavens and seeing the things that are to come, there is much that remains unknown to him and us. But one thing we do know about the mystery of God is that our future is secure. Our judgment by God has already taken place, because we have been restored to a right relationship with Him due to our faith in His Son’s finished work on the cross. Paul told the believers in Ephesus:
7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. – Ephesians 1:7-10 ESV
We have already been redeemed. We already enjoy complete forgiveness for our sins. We are already united with Him. But the day is coming when all of creation will be restored and redeemed. God will fix all that is broken. He will judge all who are worthy of condemnation and place upon them the sentence they deserve. God’s righteous wrath will be finally and fully unleashed on a disobedient world, meting out His divine justice on all. And all in keeping with the prophecies provided by God thousands of years before. Daniel wrote of this very day.
And I heard the man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the stream; he raised his right hand and his left hand toward heaven and swore by him who lives forever that it would be for a time, times, and half a time, and that when the shattering of the power of the holy people comes to an end all these things would be finished. – Daniel 12:7 ESV
We can look at all that is about to happen from two different perspectives. We can see it from the viewpoint of helpless mankind cowering under the hand of an angry, all-powerful God. We can stand back and wonder at the sheer terror of the coming days of God’s judgment. Or we can recognize that all of this is the outpouring of the sovereign will of a loving, holy, gracious and merciful God. He has been more than patient. He has given the world ample time. He sent His prophets and they rejected their messages. He sent His Son and they killed Him. And as we have seen, He will one day send His judgments, and they will long for death, but they won’t turn to Him. And yet, through it all, God will continue to bring to Himself a remnant of mankind, whom He will redeem and restore. He will keep His promises to His people throughout the ages, including His church and the people of Israel. He will remain faithful and true. He will do all that He has promised. And one day, the mystery of God will be completely revealed. No more secrets. No more wondering about what comes next. And John will be given a glimpse into this day, which he will share with us, for our encouragement and edification.
6 “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. 7 The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. 8 But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” – Revelation 21:6-8 ESV
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.