Chapter 10 in the Trumpets answers to Rev. 7 in the Seals. It forms an important parenthesis, which comes in between the sixth and seventh Trumpets, just as the securing chapter (7) came in between the sixth and seventh Seals: so orderly is the Apocalypse. "And I saw another strong angel coming down out of the heaven, clothed with a cloud, and the rainbow [was] on his head, and his countenance as the sun, and his feet as pillars of fire, and having in his hand a little open book. And he set his right foot on the sea, and the left on the earth, and cried with a loud voice as a lion roareth. And when he cried, the seven thunders uttered their own voices. And when the seven thunders spoke, I was about to write; and I heard a voice out of the heaven saying Seal the things which the seven thunders uttered, and write them not."
Thus we have again the Lord in angelic appearance. As before in high-priestly function, He is the angel here with royal claim. A mighty angel comes down out of the heaven, the source of His action, clothed with a cloud, the special sign of Jehovah's majesty (Isa_19:1): none but He has the title to come thus clothed. Further, the rainbow is on His head. He occupies Himself with divine mercy toward the creation. It is not now a question of round the throne; here is a step taken in advance. He approaches the earth, and He asserts His indisputable claim to all creation as that which is His right. "And his face was as the sun," with supreme authority; "and his feet as pillars of fire," with firmness of divine judgment. "And he had in his hand a little book open; and he set his right foot on the sea, and his left on the earth, and cried with a loud voice, as a lion roareth." And the seven thunders answered on Jehovah's part; the God of glory fully asserts His title. It is no sealed-up book now, but a little one and open: sea or earth are alike His. John was going to write what the thunders said, but is forbidden. The disclosures were to be sealed; but there was to be no more delay.
"And the angel whom I saw stand on the sea and on the earth lifted up his right hand unto the heaven, and swore by him that liveth unto the ages of the ages, who created the heaven and the things that therein are, and the earth and the things that therein are, and the sea and the things that are therein, that there should be no longer delay; but in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound trumpet, the mystery of God also is finished, as he announced the glad news to his own bondmen the prophets." There was no more to be any lapse of time allowed. God would terminate the mystery of His present seeming inaction in the public government of the earth. Now He may allow the world, with slight check, to go on in its own way. Men may sin, and, as far as direct intervention is concerned, God appears not, whatever be the interferences exceptionally. But the time is coming when God will surely visit sin, and this immediately and effectually when no toleration can be for anything contrary to Himself. Such is the blessed age to which all the prophets look onward; and the angel here swears that the time is approaching. There is going to be no more delay; but in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall sound trumpet as he is about to do, the mystery of God also should be completed (lit. "and was finished the," etc.). The mystery here is, not Christ and the church, but God's allowing evil to go on in its present course with apparent impunity. Its end is now anticipated. His direct reign is at hand (Rev_11:15).
"And the voice which I heard out of the heaven [was] again speaking with me and saying, Go, take the little book that is open in the hand of the angel that standeth on the sea and on the earth. And I went off unto the angel, saying to him to give me the little book. And he saith to me, Take and eat it up; and it shall make thy belly bitter, but in thy mouth it shall be sweet as honey. And I took the little book out of the hand of the angel, and ate it up; and it was in my mouth sweet as honey; and when I had eaten it, my belly was made bitter. And they say [or, he saith] to me, Thou must prophesy again as to peoples and nations and tongues and kings many." The meaning of this soon appeals more clearly. There is a kind of appendix of prophecy where he renews his course for especial reasons. It is what may be called the second volume of "the things which are about to be after these," and begins with Rev. 12 and onward.
Meanwhile notice the evident contrast between the little book which the prophet here takes and eats, and the great book we have seen already sealed up with seven seals. It was sweet as honey to the taste that the true and all-worthy King should reign; but how bitter to the feelings that judgment unsparing should fall on the mass of the Jews, and yet more on proud Christendom, both apostate and worse. Why a little book? and why open? A little book, because it treats of a comparatively contracted sphere, already familiar in the prophets; and open, because things are no longer described in the mysterious guise in which the Seals and yet more the Trumpets arrayed them. All is going to be plain for what comes out here. Is it not the case accordingly in Rev. 11? The language is ordinary, with figures rather than symbols.