Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Dec 19 2013 - Revelation 10:1-11 – The little scroll

In his vision, John now sees another angel, one whose glorious appearance is similar to the vision of the risen Christ with which this strange book opened. This angel comes as preparation for the sounding of the seventh trumpet, with which “the mystery of God will be accomplished, just as he announced to his servants the prophets” (Revelation 10:7). 

The angel has a little scroll in his hand. If the large scroll with seven seals symbolises the plan of God that shapes all human history, this little scroll probably represents one part or phase of that plan. John is told to take the scroll from the angel. He is to take it and eat it. John tells us, "I took the little scroll from the angel’s hand and ate it. It tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it, my stomach turned sour" (10:10).

The eating of the scroll is symbolic of an assimilation of the word of God which is then to be proclaimed by the one who has taken it in – “Then I was told, ‘You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, languages and kings’” (10:11). The prophet must declare God’s word, but first he must eat it and make it part of his own life.

The picture here has echoes of Ezekiel 2:8-3:4. There Ezekiel was presented with a scroll and told to eat it. It too tasted sweet to him but its message was bitter, “words of lament and mourning and woe” (Ezekiel 2:10).

Like the prophets of old, John has been given God’s word that he might proclaim it. And through his act of declaration, the things which God has prophesied will be fulfilled. The word of God is far more than ink on paper, it is a word of power which creates what it declares even as it is spoken. This is what we shall see happening in the chapters that follow.

The word of God – the message of the gospel – is sweet to the believer. It speaks of us of the saving work of Christ. It assures us of our acceptance with God. It gives us an unshakable hope of glory. But this same message is also bitter, for it reminds us that we live in a world that has gone wrong, a world marked by suffering, pain, injustice, oppression and death – and that the pain of the present age is a shadow of judgment to come. Most of all, it carries a bitter taste for it reminds us that those who are without Christ are without hope. The little scroll of the gospel, given to us, eaten with joy by us, has about it the smell of death as well as the fragrance of life (see 2 Corinthians 2:15-16).

This stark contrast is made clear, for instance, in the transition from Romans 8 to Romans 9. Having spoken of his conviction that nothing in the universe can separate us from the love of God in Christ, Paul immediately speaks of his "great sorrow and unceasing anguish of heart" (9:2) concerning his fellow Israelites who have rejected Christ. Most of us have those who are near and dear to us who do not yet have faith. The gospel message, which fills us with joy and peace in believing, fills us with anguish and sorrow concerning those we love who do not know the Saviour. Our "heart's desire and prayer to God ... is that they may be saved" (Romans 10:1).

Lord, help us to feed upon your word and to delight in its taste. May it shape our lives and give words to our tongues. Lord, we pray particularly that you would use us – our words and our Christ-like service – to rescue many from the judgment to come. May your Spirit work in us and through us to bring joy, hope, peace and life in abundance to many this Christmas time.

Peter Misselbrook