Harry Whittaker
Revelation - A Biblical Approach

Chapter 24 - The Angel With The Open Book (ch. 10)

To appreciate the drama associated with the next stage of the vision accorded to John, it is necessary by a quick recapitulation to see the panorama of Revelation as he saw it.

In the heavenly vision he had seen Christ exalted to the Father's right hand, and the Book of Life committed to him. One by one the Seven Seals that kept secret its contents had been broken, each Seal being associated with a manifestation of wrath against Israel. Before the last Seal was broken, there came a pause for the “sealing” (in a different sense) of the Lamb's faithful ones. Then the last Seal was broken. Surely now the Book would be laid open; now must be the return of the Lord and the resurrection of the dead. But no! Seven angels appear to sound blasts of divine wrath upon their trumpets - more wrath against Israel! Six of these follow one after another bringing retribution upon a race of stony-hearted rebels. Soon must come the Seventh and last, and then - John doubtless reasoned to himself - the Lamb’s Book of Life will be full open. Besides, had not his Lord foretold that his second coming would be “immediately after the tribulation of those days” (Matthew 24:31)? At any time, then, he could expect to see the revelation of Christ’s personal return from heaven to raise the dead and bring in his Kingdom.


One can imagine, therefore, the eager excitement with which the prophet would anticipate the next stage in the Revelation he was witnessing.

“And I saw another mighty angel come down from heaven, clothed with a cloud: and a rainbow was upon his head, and his face was as it were the sun, and his feet as pillars of fire” (Revelation 10:1).

In almost all respects it seemed to be the Lord himself. Detail after glorious detail corresponded with the ineffable majesty of the Being he had beheld at the beginning of his visions. There was even about him the great rainbow from the heavenly throne. But it was not Christ’.


Many an expositor has been led by the resemblance between this rainbowed angel and the Lord to equate the two and to say: This is none other than the Lord himself. But a whole catalogue of reasons demands that this attractive idea be set aside.

John says: “another mighty angel” - an expression he could hardly have used of One who had been exalted to the Father’s throne and who commands the adoration of all angels (Hebrews 1:6). In Revelation whenever John refers to Christ he does so by some distinctive title that there can be no mistaking - “the Lamb,” “the Alpha and Omega,” “the Amen,” and so on.

John is not afraid to approach the angel (verse 9) and demand that the little book be handed to him.

The book in the angel’s hand is not the Lamb’s Book of Life described in chapter 5; for this is a biblaridion, a little book. The term seems to be expressly chosen to mark a distinction from that of chapter 5.

The contents of the book made John’s belly bitter, a thing unthinkable if this angel were Christ and the little book were the Lamb’s Book of Life.

The detailed parallel between Revelation 10, 11 and Daniel 10, 12 set out below requires that John understood the being he saw to be the angel who revealed so much to Daniel.



A mighty angel.
10:5, 12:7
A man clothed in linen.

Right foot on the sea, left foot on the land.
Standing on the waters of the river.

Face like the sun.
Face like lightning.

Feet as pillars of fire.
Feet like polished brass.

Open book in his hand.
“I will shew thee that which is noted in the Scripture of truth (the heavenly prototype).”

Voice as a lion.
Voice like a multitude.

Lifts right hand to heaven. (The left hand holds the book.)
Lifts both hands to heaven.

Swears by Him that liveth for ever.
Swears by Him that liveth for ever.

Mystery of God to be finished as declared to the prophet.
“All these things shall be finished.”

Temple court “cast out,” given to Gentiles.
Daily sacrifice taken away, abomination set up.

Holy city trodden under foot.
Power of the holy people scattered.

42 months.
Time, times and an half.

The time of the dead that they should be judged.
Many that sleep awake, to everlasting life or to contempt.


Whilst, then, it may be taken as tolerably certain that the rainbowed angel was not Christ, some reason must be found for the remarkable resemblances between him and his Lord. These similarities are worth picking out.

The Angel of Revelation 10

Clothed with a cloud.
“A cloud received him out of their sight ... shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:10,11). “Behold he cometh with clouds” (Revelation 1:7 and 14:14).

His face as the sun
“His countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength” (1:16).

His feet as pillars of fire (contrast the kingdoms of men - feet of iron and clay).
“His feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace” (1:15)

“Cried with a loud voice as when a lion roareth.”
“The Lion of the tribe of Judah hath prevailed to open the seals” (5:5).

“A rainbow was upon his head.”
“There was a rainbow round about the throne (4:3) ... a Lamb in the midst of the throne” (5:6)

Why the strong likeness between the two visions?

Firstly, because this is a turning point, a moment of crisis, in the Revelation. John is keyed up to expect at this juncture the sight of his Lord returning to the earth in glory. Instead he is to learn that more time must elapse before the consummation of the divine purpose in Christ. So an angel endowed with such a fulness of glory communicates this important fact that John may recognize not only the importance but also the vital necessity of this new departure now about to ensue in the heavenly plan. Secondly, because his appearance is closely connected with the Seven Thunders - a sequence of additional revelations which have to do specifically with the coming of the Lord.


The undeniable parallel between Daniel and Revelation makes possible an intelligent guess as to the identity of the rainbowed angel. First, it may be taken as fairly certain that he is the same as the angel clothed in linen who spoke to Daniel in chapter 10 There verse 13 makes it plain that he is an archangel, but distinct from Michael. The words in verse 6 - “the voice of his words like the voice of a multitude” - have led some to the conclusion that here is an idealised picture of Christ and his glorified saints, but a careful reading of verses 12-14, 20, 21 will immediately supply insuperable difficulties in the way of full acceptance of such a view.

The best hint as to the angel’s identity (in Daniel) is in the words of verse 21: “I will shew thee that which is noted in the Scripture of truth.” Let comparison be made with Daniel 8:16 and 9:2, 22: “Gabriel, make this man to understand the vision ... Yea, whiles I was speaking in prayer, even the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning ... talked with me, and said, O Daniel, I am now come forth to shew thee.”

It was Gabriel also who declared to Zacharias, by the exposition of Old Testament prophecy, what was to be the mission of his son (Luke 1:17). And, very probably, it was Gabriel (as suggested by C.C.W.) who strengthened Jesus at the crisis of his temptation in Gethsemane, by the power of the Scripture of Truth already written beforehand concerning him.

With such facts and probabilities to work on, the suggestion may be hazarded with fair confidence that this rainbowed angel in Revelation 10 was also Gabriel intent on revealing to John the meaning of yet another Scripture of Truth[42]


That the main purpose of the angelic appearance was to announce the casting off of Israel, in accordance with Bible prophecy, can hardly be doubted when other details in this chapter are studied.

The angel’s declaration was: “The time (i.e. the time of the Lord’s return) is not yet.” Attention is specially drawn to the demonstration at the end of this chapter that the A.V. and R.V. readings are both inadmissible and that this is a better translation.[43]

The angel is seen with his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the earth (i.e. on the Land, as in chapter 8:7 and 9:1). In every Scripture where right and left are differentiated, the right is invariably associated with divine blessing and acceptance, and the left with cursing and rejection; e.g. Matthew 25:31-41; Joshua 8:30-35; Genesis 48:14; Ezekiel 4:4. Hence there is here, represented in symbol, the divine abandonment of Israel and greater opportunity of acceptance by Gentiles.

Verse 7: “in the days of the seventh angel ... the mystery of God should be finished.” It is observable that in many places in the New Testament the associations of the word “mystery” are with the preaching of the Gospel to the Gentiles; e.g. Romans 11:25 and 16:25, 26; Ephesians 3:3-9; Colossians 1: 26, 27.

The plain statement of verse 11: “And he said unto me, Thou must prophecy again concerning many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings” is clear intimation of a wider extension of the divine purpose.

The measuring of the temple and the altar (11:1). In Ezekiel 40 and in Zechariah 2:1 and again in Revelation 21:15 the measuring of Jerusalem or of the temple means the rebuilding of the city or the inauguration of a new temple. So here also the inauguration of a new spiritual temple is indicated (2 Corinthians 6:16). That a literal temple of stone is not meant is made clear by the words that follow: “But the court that is without the temple leave out.” The last phrase there, when literally translated, is: “cast out,” i.e. excommunicate (as in John 9:34, 35; 3 John 10), thus shewing that the reference is to the people of Israel and not to a building.

The rest of this verse 2 clinches the matter: “for it (the temple court, symbolizing unbelieving Jewry) is given to the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months.” The reference here to the Olivet Prophecy can hardly be missed: “And Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled” (Luke 21: 24).

It follows that this interim vision of Revelation 10 was to prepare the apostle John for a big extension of his prophetic work, especially in connection with the gospel going forth to the Gentiles. And in this fact lies the solution to several problems.


Various other details in the chapter harmonize perfectly with the point of view being advanced here:

“He cried with a loud voice, as when a lion roareth.” That last word should be translated “loweth,” since it is normally the word specially used of the moo-ing of a cow. Is John trying to be funny here with his mixed metaphors? God forbid! The word “lion” is chosen to suggest heavenly anger (against Israel), whilst the sudden switch to “loweth” implies that the One who is the cause of wrath against Israel is now simultaneously the means of sacrifice for outcast Gentile.[44]

John saw the angel “lift up his hand to heaven and swear by him that liveth for ever and ever.” This is unquestionably a deliberate appropriation of the words of Deuteronomy 32:40. The context there is striking and unmistakable. It is Moses’ prophecy of the casting off of Israel and the acceptance of the Gentiles: “I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal; neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand. For I lift up my hand to heaven, and say, I live for ever. If I whet my glittering sword, and mine hand take hold on judgement: I will render vengeance to mine enemies and will reward them that hate me.” And then, “Rejoice, O ye nations (Gentiles), with his people.”

Verse 7 R.V.: “according to the good tidings which he declared to his servants the prophets.” How could judgement on Israel be characterized as “good tidings” if it were not that their casting away meant the receiving in of the Gentiles7

Two other details in the vision would be specially reassuring to John. The angelic oath including the name of God Himself –“Him that liveth for ever and ever, who created heaven are the things that are therein and the earth and the things that are therein”[45] (v. 6). But this is the oath by which God ratified His promise to Abraham (Hebrews 6:13), a promise that involved the gospel going to the Gentiles and also the restoration of Israel to special divine favour. Thus this angelic oath involved a reminder to John and to all devout students of his vision that Israel were not cast off to be thrust out for ever. The day of renewed favour will yet dawn.

Exactly the same assurance was imparted by the sight of the majestic rainbow halo round the angel’s head. That rainbow was the eternal reminder that God is One who keeps covenant. “I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh upon the earth” (Genesis 9:13, 16). Here, then, was assurance enough that all was not lost; even though Israel be scattered, the temple destroyed and the land desolated, the divine purpose in Christ would not, could not, fail.


Since the little book lying open in the left hand of the angel was not, as John had originally expected, the Book of Life, it is pertinent to enquire precisely what it was. Here, as always, guesswork must be set aside in favour of the plain hints given in the Bible itself.

John was commanded to take the book and eat it. Its taste was sweet as honey, but it made his belly bitter. This was Ezekiel’s experience over again. It would be strange, then, if Ezekiel did not afford some hint as to what John’s little book contained: “And when I looked, behold, an hand was sent unto me, and lo, a roll of a book was therein: and he spread it before me, and it was written within and without: and there was written therein lamentations, and mourning, and woe ... moreover he said unto me, Son of man, eat that thou findest; eat this roll, and go speak unto the house of Israel. So I opened my mouth and he caused me to eat that roll. And he said unto me, Son of man, cause thy belly to eat, and fill thy bowels with this roll that I give thee. Then I did eat it; and it was in my mouth as honey for sweetness” (Ezekiel 2:9, 10 and 3:1-4). “So the spirit lifted me up, and took me away, and I went in bitterness in the heat of my spirit” (3 14).


The parallel between the experience of the two prophets is plain enough. Both had to prophesy the downfall and desolation of their own nation because of disobedience. “Lamentation, mourning, and woe” was the theme of both-hence bitterness in the belly, even though the message had the honey sweetness of holy words from heaven (Psalm 19:10 and 119:103 and 40:8 mg.). It was the duty of each to foretell a time of scattering and downtreading, and to each were entrusted visions concerning Gentile nations during the period of Israel’s casting off. “John, thou - like Ezekiel - must prophesy again, this time not so much about thine own people Israel but concerning[46] many peoples and nations and tongues and kings.”

In such circumstances, who can doubt that the little book is the rest of the Book of Revelation being imparted unto John? It cannot be accident that the same expression about “peoples, nations, tongues and kings” meets the reader again in chapter 17:15. And even a casual reading of Revelation chapters 12-20 makes it abundantly evident that that part of the book has much to say about Gentile nations and powers.


The most likely understanding of the Seven Thunders harmonizes with this conclusion. It is commonly overlooked that there is a seeming contradiction about the instructions given to John concerning the Thunders: “Seal up those things which the seven thunders uttered, and write then’ not.” But how can that which has not been written down be “sealed up”? Clearly “seal up” implies that what the Thunders uttered had been already written down. If this be so, “write them not” must be read as: “write not their meanings.”[47]

Now if the Thunders were already written, where were they written save in the little book that was being imparted to John?

The oversight referred to just now - the force of the command “seal up” - is also responsible for another mistaken conclusion about the Thunders, namely that there is no further mention of them in the Book of Revelation. If this were so, it would be strange indeed, for then the reader would be faced with the unique phenomenon of the mention of an obviously important item in the divine plan without a vestige of a hint to clear up the mystery in which it was enshrouded. But the name of this book is Revelation!

It is shewn in Chapters 6 and 29 that what the Seven Thunders uttered is given in detail in a later part of Revelation. Taking this conclusion for granted for the moment, it will readily be seen that that view harmonizes well with the idea that the little book given to John and containing the Thunders was none other than the rest of the Book of Revelation (or some particular portion of it). And just as the book given to Ezekiel for his eating was the “lamentation, mourning and woe” of his prophecy, so also here.


[41] A careful reading of Daniel 10,11,12 will make plain that it is the same unnamed angel who is speaking throughout.
[42] Gabriel means: “God’s strong one;’ hence Revelation 10:1 “a strong angel.”
[43] There is the possibility that “the time is not yet’, refers to the fulfilment of the seven thunders. The passage would read very smoothly this way, and further, this view would harmonize excellently with the command: “Seal up those things which the seven thunders uttered” (cp. Daniel 8:26 and 12:4, 9).
[44] Or does it signify wrath tempered with mercy?
[45] The third similar phrase “the sea, etc.” should be omitted, according to the best texts And this is obviously right, for the vision is
concerned with:
i. those in the heavenlies — saints in covenant with God through Christ.
ii. those on earth — the Jews, now thrust out from their spiritual privileges.
[46] Not, as A.V.: “before.”
[47] The instruction: “seal up,” in Daniel 8:26 and 12:4, 9, confirms this conclusion for in each of the instances there Daniel wrote the vision (chapter 8:3-14, 19-26 and 11:2-12:3), yet in the first of these “there was none to make it understood” (8: 27 RVm.), and in the second “none of the wicked shall understand, but the wise shall understand.” Similarly, then, concerning the “sealed up” thunders, it must be understood that they were written but not explained, and of them also it will be only “the wise” who “understand.”

This A.V. translation must be discarded as meaningless. Any attempt to make it equivalent to eternal life in the Kingdom of God is bound to be unsatisfactory: e.g. why, after this, should John’s belly be made bitter by eating of the little book?

The R.V. margin translation: “that there shall be delay no longer,” is also unsatisfactory, for the simple reason that the Greek word chronos means “time” and does not mean “delay.”

The suggested translation “that the time shall not be yet” is true to the original in all details. Cp. John 7:33 and 12:35 where the same phrase occurs, only without the negative, “ Yet a little while (time) am I with you.”

The parallel with Daniel 12 already established, requires that: “the man clothed in linen ... held up his right hand and his left hand unto heaven, and sware by him that liveth for ever and ever that it shall be for a time, times and an half.” Here likewise is the idea of a lapse of time during which the scattering of the holy people is to be accomplished (cp. Revelation 11:2).

Verse 7 should then follow thus: “But (it shall be) in the days of the voice of the seventh angel whenever he may be about to sound and (whenever) may be finished the mystery of God...”
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