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. 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, and called out with a loud voice, like a lion roaring. When he called out, the seven thunders sounded. 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.” And the angel whom I saw standing on the sea and on the land raised his right hand to heaven 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, 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.
Then the voice that I had heard from heaven spoke to me again, saying, “Go, take the scroll that is open in the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land.” So I went to the angel and told him to give me the little scroll. And he said to me, “Take and eat it; it will make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be sweet as honey.” And I took the little scroll from the hand of the angel and ate it. It was sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it my stomach was made bitter. And I was told, “You must again prophesy about many peoples and nations and languages and kings.”
Understanding And Applying the Text
We may think of the angel who appears wrapped in a cloud as another character in John’s vision. But there is a strong argument that this is Christ Himself.
Your reaction to that may be the same as mine. Christ is God. He is the second person of the trinity. He is not an Angel. Angel is much too low a term for Him. But Christ became man. Man is lower than the angels. (Hebrews 2:7-9) As I studied I found the idea to be very plausible.
John’s description of the angel correlates to the description of Christ in chapter one. He is clothed in a cloud. A cloud is a customary symbol of divine presence. The rainbow corresponds to the rainbow around the throne. His face was like the sun. His voice was like a lion’s roar. His legs were like pillars of fire. This refers back to Revelation 1:10-16 description of Christ.
Paul described Christ as the Archangel in 1 Thessalonians 4:16. “For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God.”
Both descend from Heaven. Both descend with a shout. In both cases, it is the voice of the archangel. In both cases, the appearance comes with a trumpet’s sounding. The voice of the archangel awakens the sleeping saints. But it is the voice to the Son of God that awakens the dead. (John v. 25-29). The voice of the archangel must be the voice of Christ.
My objection, and perhaps yours, centered on the title angel or even archangel. But angel means messenger. And Christ carried the Father’s message. He did not speak on His own authority. (John 8:28) So the title Angel is not incompatible with God’s divine nature.
Isaiah 63:9 and Malachi 3:1 give the title Angel to the Messiah. There is only one archangel or prince of angels. Jude names the archangel Michael in verse 9. Daniel 12:1 identifies Michael as the Messiah.
So it appears the mighty angel is the Archangel of 1 Thessalonians. And the Archangel is Christ Himself.
This strong Angel held a small open book or scroll. He placed his right foot on the sea. He placed his left foot on the land. Then He cried out. His voice was like a lion’s roar. When He cried out seven thunders sounded. John was about to write down want he heard but a voice told him not to. John was then told to take the scroll and eat it.
The seven thunders must be seven words. John heard them. He understood them. And he was going to write them down. And he is told not to. Why? What is this telling us?
The message is clear. It tells us God knows everything about history. He knows how it is going to unfold. He could tell us all the details. But it is none of our business. The details are not ours to know. God could tell us but He’s not going to.
God gives us the big picture. But the details are His. What is the big picture? What is it we need to know? The big picture is that even though the righteous suffer, God, preserves them. Even though the wicked suffer, and God gives them every opportunity, they never learn. They do not repent. God preserves His church. And there will be a final judgment. That is the big picture of history. That is what we need to know.
But we want the details. We want the hidden things. If God wanted us to know them He would reveal them. But like Adam and Eve, we want to be like God. We want the details. We want what belongs to God. What is going to happen tomorrow? What is going to happen to our family? God has not revealed these.
We have all we can handle keeping with the big picture. To paraphrase Colonel Nathan R. Jessup in the movie “A Few Good Men.” You can’t handle the details. But our sin is great. We want what is not ours. We want what belongs to God. The details of history belong to God, not us.
This scene brings to mind, Daniel and Ezekiel. God told Daniel to seal the book until the end of time. Here God tells John to not even write down what he hears in the thunder. God told Ezekiel to eat a book containing lamentations morning and woe. (Ezekiel 2:10-3:3)
When John eats the scroll, like Ezekiel, John found the taste sweet as honey. We know God’s words are sweet. But these words were words of judgment. So they were bitter in John’s stomach. Both John and Ezekiel were to prophesy to the people. They both declared coming judgment.
In Ezekiel, it is the Lord who holds the scroll or book. This seems to be another confirmation the Angel spoken of here is Christ.
Now the good news is there will be no more delay. After the seventh trumpet, God is going to move to final judgment. That does not mean after the seventh trumpet the rest of the book is about the final judgment. But it moves us closer to the revelation of final judgment and what it will be like. No more prophecies need to be fulfilled. We are at the end.