Wednesday, 3 February 2021
And he said to me, “You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, tongues, and kings.” Revelation 10:11
John has taken the little open book and eaten it. It was, as anticipated, sweet as honey in his mouth, and it also made his stomach bitter. With that noted, John next says, “And he said to me.”
Some Greek manuscripts say, “And they said to me.” To justify “they” instead of “he,” Greek scholars say it provides a sense of indefiniteness, such as “It was said to me.” However, this doesn’t follow naturally with the use of the word. If “he” is correct, it would be the Angel speaking to him. If “they” is correct, it would be both the Angel and the voice from heaven. This would be possible, even if both voices are that of Jesus. He is the One who was and who is and who is to come, and so it would be no different than the Lord speaking to Himself as is recorded in the 110th Psalm. This psalm is then cited in the New Testament by Jesus in the gospels (Matthew 22:44, Mark 12:36, and Luke 20:42) and in Acts 2:34. It is also cited in Hebrews 1:13.
Either way, the voice then says, “You must prophesy.” Here, the word “prophesy” should be considered in the broader sense of the word. Rather than speaking forth a future prophecy as in “Thus says the Lord, this will come about,” it is referring to speaking forth the word of God such as is described in Romans 12:6. In other words, John is being told he must communicate the contents of the little book, and he must do so, as it next says, “again.”
Albert Barnes is certainly correct in his analysis of this prophesying –
“The direct address is to John himself; but it is evidently not to be understood of him personally. He is represented as seeing the angel; as hearkening to his voice; as listening to the solemn oath which he took; as receiving and eating the volume; and then as prophesying to many people; but the reference is undoubtedly to the far-distant future.”
What Albert Barnes is saying, and which rightly conveys the intent, is that the word of Revelation that John is writing down (see Revelation 1:11) is what is being referred to. John, and the visions he is writing down, will be the basis for the “prophesying again.” As this is so, it means that prophesying has already been accomplished towards an intended audience and it went unheeded by that audience. As the prophecy of the Old Testament was directed toward Israel, it is Israel that must be “prophesied again” to with the words of John.
The contents of Revelation, from verse 4:1 until verse 19:10, are dealing with the tribulation period which is focused on the nation of Israel. As this is based on the seventieth week of Daniel’s “seventy sevens” of Daniel 9, it makes this a logical deduction. It would also explain the bitterness in John’s stomach as the recorded words are directed to his own nation who had rejected their Messiah. The prophesying that John is to do is not literally in person. Rather, it is speaking about the warnings and judgments which are revealed in Revelation. What he will receive and pen is what brings bitterness.
With that understood, the verse and the chapter end with, “about many peoples, nations, tongues, and kings.” Here the idea that this is directed toward Israel specifically comes clearly into focus. The word translated as “about” is epi. It is used in the dative case and it signifies “concerning.” Saying “about” is a good way of conveying the intent. As the Pulpit Commentary says –
“These are the objects of the prophecy, not the audience. This serves to explain the reference in the preceding sentence. The message is not delivered to, but about peoples, etc. The fourfold enumeration seems to point to the breadth of the signification – it embraces the whole of mankind.”
The question is, “Why would the message to be prophesied be ‘about’ all these categories instead of ‘to’ them?” The answer is because it is the Gentile nations who received and accepted the message of Christ for so long. At the same time, Israel had rejected it. This is found, for example, just before the close of the book of Acts –
So when they had appointed him a day, many came to him at his lodging, to whom he explained and solemnly testified of the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus from both the Law of Moses and the Prophets, from morning till evening. 24 And some were persuaded by the things which were spoken, and some disbelieved. 25 So when they did not agree among themselves, they departed after Paul had said one word: “The Holy Spirit spoke rightly through Isaiah the prophet to our fathers, 26 saying,
‘Go to this people and say:
“Hearing you will hear, and shall not understand;
And seeing you will see, and not perceive;
27 For the hearts of this people have grown dull.
Their ears are hard of hearing,
And their eyes they have closed,
Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears,
Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn,
So that I should heal them.”’
28 “Therefore let it be known to you that the salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will hear it!” Acts 28:23-28
The Gentiles did hear (meaning respond to) the gospel. On the other hand, Israel rejected it and went into two thousand years of punishment. The message that must be “prophesied again” is to the people brought back from exile, and in the far-distant future from the time John received it. It will be especially proclaimed “in the days of the sounding of the seventh angel” as noted in verse 10:7.
Life application: The words of this verse appear to be correctly translated and evaluated above, but there are translations and evaluations that convey a different intent. Instead of prophesying about the people, nations, languages, and kings, it could very well mean “before” them. If this is the case, then these would be prophecies “against” them. In other words, they would stand as a witness against them. If so, what he will receive and pen for the world to see then is what brings bitterness to the whole world.
This idea, then, would be parallel to what Ezekiel was told in his vision and prophecy. Ezekiel 3:11 records –
“And go, get to the captives, to the children of your people, and speak to them and tell them, ‘Thus says the Lord God,’ whether they hear, or whether they refuse.”
Ezekiel was prophesying against the rebellious house of Israel. John is either to prophesy a warning against the continued rebellious house of Israel, or against all of the people of the world. This secondary explanation is given as a reference, but – as noted above – this prophecy is more likely referring to the time of Daniel’s seventieth seven and concerning Israel specifically, but without neglecting the Gentiles in the process.
The love and covenant faithfulness of God for His people has ensured that He has kept them and will keep them as a people. Someday they will acknowledge this and turn to Him in faith. And this great grace and mercy extends to any who will simply accept His offer of pardon and receive the gift of eternal life through the shed blood of His own precious Son, our Lord JESUS.
Lord, we as a species cannot seem to learn from the past, and we are thus destined to make the same mistakes again in the future. How sad it is that the people of the world cannot simply bow their knees and acknowledge You and Your great workings in human history. But such is not the case. We stubbornly turn our necks and turn from You. In this, You are surely justified when You judge. Before that day, give us the desire to continue to share the message of hope found in Jesus our Lord. Amen.