One of the major themes of this chapter is about the role of God’s prophets. It tells us something about what they are to do and what they are not to do.
For instance, John was told not to write down the words of the “seven thunders.” Revelation is a book of sevens. We’ve had seven seals and seven trumpets. A little later, we will have seven bowls. Here, John encountered seven thunders, but their messages were not to be discussed or even written down.
A prophet of God is subject to the command of God. And some things of God are not for us. They are not to be shared. We recall the apostle Paul had a heavenly vision – in 2 Corinthians 12 – and he said he “heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter” (2 Corinthians 12:4). The prophets are not to run out on their own. Their agenda is God’s agenda.
And so we see something of the role of the prophet in Revelation 10. We also see the disciple John eating the little scroll. And we take this as something symbolic – the ingesting of God’s Word. It is sweet to the taste, like the honey of the Promised Land, but it also brings with it a certain bitterness.
God’s Word is good and just and righteous. It brings life to those who hear it and receive it. But it also brings with it the bitterness of rejection. Not everyone will accept the Word of God. Some will say, “No.” And God’s prophets have a long history of rejection and death. The world’s “No” sometimes is accompanied by a sword.
Revelation 10 has a direct link to Ezekiel 1-3. Read those chapters when you get a chance. There, Ezekiel encountered someone sitting on a throne, in the “likeness of the glory of God.” The figure was human in appearance. From the waist up, Ezekiel saw what looked like gleaming metal and fire. From the waist down, Ezekiel saw the appearance of fire and brightness. The figure was surrounded by a rainbow.
Compare that with what John saw. A mighty angel from heaven, wrapped in a cloud. His face shone like the sun. His legs were like pillars of fire. He had a rainbow over his head. John’s angel was standing, not sitting. The angel was on land and on sea (not in the sea), demonstrating total mastery of the physical elements.
Back in Ezekiel, the figure told the prophet to go and speak to Israel, which the figure said was a “rebellious house.” The figure laid out a scroll in front of Ezekiel. On the scroll were written words “of lamentation and mourning and woe.”
The figure told Ezekiel to eat it. “Eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel.” So Ezekiel did. “Then I ate it, and it was in my mouth as sweet as honey.”
This eating of the scroll from heaven is a picture of the consumption of the Word of God – hearing it in preparation of the speaking of it. There’s no question God would have us think back to Ezekiel as we read about John’s eating of the little scroll. John has some things to say that are difficult to hear. And like Ezekiel, when we hear the words of God in Revelation – whether we accept them or reject them – we will know that a prophet has been among us (Ezekiel 2:5).
And so this chapter is a chapter about the work of God’s prophet. But it also is a chapter that is about us. The angel gave John the little scroll and said, “Take and eat.”
This phrase should give us pause. This is what Jesus said to his disciples on the night he was betrayed, as he broke the bread that was his body. “Take, eat; this is my body” (Matthew 26:26). There is something here in this scene to remind us of the Lord’s Supper, a moment in time when we take and eat the body of Christ.
The Lord’s Supper is something the church does together, when we are gathered together. We accept the body of Christ into us. We consume it. We receive by faith what he did for us on a Roman cross, accepting death for our sins so that we could have everlasting life in him. We take and eat. This is about faith. This is about Jesus.
And the Lord’s Supper, too, is about the Word of God. We are the people of the Book, the Word. John already had written, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory” (John 1:14) – much like Ezekiel saw the glory of Lord.
This Word dwells inside of us. We are Christians, members of the church of Christ. In reading Revelation, we might understand Jesus to BE the “scroll.” He is its content. And John, like in the Lord’s Supper, took in the Word and then was to live it. This is what we do every Sunday – and every time we open our Bibles to “take and eat.”
Jesus lives in us. And he is sweet in our lives, like honey. We do not fear death. We are promised eternal life. And yet we can experience the bitterness of rejection when the world turns its back on Him, and us. This is part of life in Christ – rejection. We take and eat. We taste the sweetness. We experience the bitterness.
But the promise is as true today as it was true in Ezekiel’s day or in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah or in the days of John. For them and us, we wait for the arrival of the Messiah. God is working out his plan. And we know it is just around the corner. It may even be today.
What is it the voice said? “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.”
And so we take and eat. We get ready.