Wednesday, 27 January 2021
Now when the seven thunders uttered their voices, I was about to write; but I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, “Seal up the things which the seven thunders uttered, and do not write them.” Revelation 10:4
In this verse is an enduring enigma that has both tempted and frustrated scholars for millennia. John just wrote in the previous verse that when the conquering Angel cried out, the “seven thunders uttered their voices.” John now continues that thought by saying, “Now when the seven thunders uttered their voices.”
In other words, we are being shown – explicitly – that John wrote Revelation as the events came to his eyes. That corresponds with verse 1:11. There, it said, “What you see, write in a book and send it to the seven churches.” John didn’t see the events and then write them down at some later point, but he was writing as he saw the visions. That is confirmed by the words, “I was about to write.”
Like a journalist taking down the events as they occurred, so John was compiling what he saw. This gives us the surety that what he saw was carefully and accurately detailed. With a large number of events, with many details in events, or with time between events, things can get jumbled up in the mind. To ensure that what was seen was recorded without any of these problems, John chronicled the events as they occurred. In the case of the seven thunders, John was just about to write them down. However, he was stopped from doing so. As it says, “but a voice from heaven said to me.”
Like several other times in Revelation, a voice speaks even though the speaker remains unidentified. However, it can be inferred that this is the Lord Jesus. This is because the Lord instructed him to write in the first place. As this is so, it would be the continued voice of the Lord, speaking out instruction concerning His word to the churches (as indicated above).
With this in mind, the voice then says to John, “Seal up the things which the seven thunders uttered, and do not write them.” The seven thunders are the voice of the Lord speaking out seven truths, commands, prophecies, or etc. The Greek word translated as “thunder” is found only two times outside of Revelation. One is in the naming of John and his brother James “Sons of Thunder” in Mark 3:17. The other time is in John 12 –
“Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify Your name.”
Then a voice came from heaven, saying, “I have both glorified it and will glorify it again.”
29 Therefore the people who stood by and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to Him.”
30 Jesus answered and said, “This voice did not come because of Me, but for your sake.” John 12:27-30
John is specifically told to not write down what these thunders state, clearly indicating that the thunders are conveyed as intelligent words. However, what is uttered is not to be recorded. This is similar to what was conveyed to Daniel –
“But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end; many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase.” Daniel 12:4
Daniel was given the word, but he did not understand what he was presented. Because of this, he asked about the matter (Daniel 12:8). From there, the answer was –
“Go your way, Daniel, for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end.” Daniel 12:9
What then is a possibility concerning these seven thunders is that the events that are now being recorded actually occur chronologically in conjunction with what is said in Revelation 8 where the same word translated as “thunder” is used –
“Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and threw it to the earth. And there were noises, thunderings, lightnings, and an earthquake.” Revelation 8:5
In other words, like the opening of the seventh seal (Revelation 8:1) which may actually have preceded the events of Chapter 7, this vision John is now seeing is chronologically occurring before, or in conjunction with, the sounding of the seven trumpets. As confusing as this may seem, it must be remembered that the events from verse 10:1 through 11:14 are being inserted between the sounding of the sixth and seventh trumpet, just as the events of Chapter 7 occurred between the loosing of the sixth and seventh seal.
As noted in the Revelation 8:1 commentary, the same happens numerous times elsewhere in Scripture, such as where the book of Ruth follows the book of Judges, but its events occur during the time of the Judges. Thus, the main events of Judges are laid out, and then the information of Ruth (that occurred during Judges) is filled in afterward.
This seems more certain when considering what it will say in verse 10:7 –
“but in the days of the sounding of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, the mystery of God would be finished, as He declared to His servants the prophets.”
The mystery of God is finished at the sounding of the seventh trumpet. When the seventh trumpet is sounded (verse 11:15), it will say, “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!”
Therefore, the words of “seven thunders” are unknown, but the function of them is not. They are given to direct the events of the apocalypse through to its completion.
Life application: Because the voice of this verse comes from heaven and directs the Angel, some scholars have decided that the Angel can’t be Jesus. But we have already seen on several occasions that Jesus fulfills sequential roles of the heavenly court – such as in Revelation 4 and 5 where Jesus is sitting on the throne and then hands the scroll to the Lamb who is Jesus. In other words, we are seeing the “unveiling” or “revealing” of Jesus. Just because we see sequential things occur from different places, and which include interaction between individuals who are present, it doesn’t negate that they are all Jesus.
As for the words from Daniel 12 that were cited above, the book of Revelation is the “time of the end.” It is revealing the things Daniel wasn’t understanding. However, even in Revelation, there are things that are sealed. God has chosen to reveal His Son in the way which He has determined, and we are not privy to all of the information concerning the coming time of tribulation. His plan will come to pass as He directs, and in order for that to happen, the seven thunders must remain hidden.
Though what is said isn’t revealed, it is surely a call for judgment. In Job 37, we read this parallel –
“At this also my heart trembles,
And leaps from its place.
2 Hear attentively the thunder of His voice,
And the rumbling that comes from His mouth.
3 He sends it forth under the whole heaven,
His lightning to the ends of the earth.
4 After it a voice roars;
He thunders with His majestic voice,
And He does not restrain them when His voice is heard.
5 God thunders marvelously with His voice;
He does great things which we cannot comprehend.” Job 37:1-5
In the end, we may not have the words of the seven thunders, but we can understand their function. Like the voice that thundered in John 12 (above), the purpose of the voice of the Lord is ultimately to reveal to us JESUS.
Lord God, it sure is exciting to see the events of redemptive history unfolding before our very eyes. And yet, there are things that are hidden from us as well. Because of this, we when we read Your word, we stretch our minds – hoping to see that which is beyond our eyes. How wise You are in how You have presented the future to us. You provide enough so that we can know when You have acted to fulfill prophecy, but You withhold enough so that we must wait for the prophecies to come about. Thank You, O God, for giving us both hope in Your word, and surety in what it proclaims as it comes to pass. Amen.