Monday, 25 January 2021
He had a little book open in his hand. And he set his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land, Revelation 10:2
John continues with the vision from verse 10:1 saying, “He had a little book.” This is referring to the mighty angel coming down from heaven as detailed there. Every indication is that this is another aspect of the Lord Jesus. That will continue now in this verse. The Greek word translated as “book” is biblaridion. This is most likely a type of unsealed scroll, but not the same as the scroll that was mentioned in Chapter 5 where a different word was used.
The fact that it specifically notes it is a little book bears its own significance. Unlike the large scroll noted in Chapter 5, a title deed to the entire world, the contents of this book obviously have a narrower focus and scope to it. Albert Barnes provides his thoughts on this little book –
“A book, as such, thus borne in the hand of an angel coming down to the world, would be an indication that something of importance was to be communicated to people, or that something was to be accomplished by the agency era book. It was not, as in Revelation 6:2, a bow – emblem of conquest; or Revelation 10:4, a sword – emblem of battle; or Revelation 10:5, a pair of scales – emblem of the exactness with which things were to be determined; but it was a book – a speechless, silent thing, yet mighty; not designed to carry desolation through the earth, but to diffuse light and truth. The natural interpretation, then, would be, that something was to be accomplished by the agency of a book, or that a book was to be the prominent characteristic of the times – as the bow, the sword, and the balances had been of the previous periods. As to the size of the book, perhaps all that can be inferred is, that this was to be brought about, not by extended tomes, but by a comparatively small volume – so that it could be taken in the hand; so that it could, without impropriety, be represented as eaten by an individual.”
Without stating the purpose of the words, Barnes’ thoughts are correct concerning what they convey. The words are important, they diffuse light and truth, they are short and concise in their volume and stated purpose, and they are intended to be transmitted in order to be understood. But what do the words of this small book proclaim? Without attempting to get too far ahead, the answer is found later in this chapter, but especially in the final verse of it where it says, “You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, tongues, and kings.”
The importance of those words that is to be focused on now is the word “about.” Some translations say “before” (or something similar), as if John is to preach before many peoples, nations, tongues, and kings. However, the Pulpit Commentary notes –
“…concerning many peoples, etc. (ἐπί, with dative). 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.”
If this is so, and if it is a message being conveyed about “many peoples, nations, tongues, and kings,” then who is the audience? The answer must be taken from elsewhere in Scripture. It should be noted that this particular type of scroll is only mentioned in this chapter of Revelation where it will be referred to three times (verses 2, 9, and 10). Of this book, John says it was “open in his hand.”
Before going on, it is a good place to note that the tenth chapter of Revelation corresponds to the tenth letter of the Hebrew aleph-bet. The tenth letter, yod, pictures an arm with a closed hand, and it signifies “hand,” “work,” and “throw,” and “worship.” In this chapter is found the little book in the hand of the angel.
The closed hand is holding the open scroll. This is unlike Chapter 5 where the scroll was epi, or “upon,” the right hand. Here the scroll is en, or in, the hand. Having noted this, the reader is directed back to the book of Ezekiel where the prophet Ezekiel had a similar vision. There, the Lord appeared to him. While giving him instruction concerning his prophetic office, it said in Ezekiel 2 –
“Now when I looked, there was a hand stretched out to me; and behold, a scroll of a book was in it.” Ezekiel 2:9
The viewing of this scroll was preceded by these words –
“Son of man, I am sending you to the children of Israel, to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against Me; they and their fathers have transgressed against Me to this very day. 4 For they are impudent and stubborn children. I am sending you to them, and you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God.’ 5 As for them, whether they hear or whether they refuse—for they are a rebellious house—yet they will know that a prophet has been among them.
6 “And you, son of man, do not be afraid of them nor be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns are with you and you dwell among scorpions; do not be afraid of their words or dismayed by their looks, though they are a rebellious house. 7 You shall speak My words to them, whether they hear or whether they refuse, for they are rebellious. 8 But you, son of man, hear what I say to you. Do not be rebellious like that rebellious house; open your mouth and eat what I give you.” Ezekiel 2:3-8
Ezekiel was told to go to the rebellious house of Israel. John is being instructed likewise. The previous trumpet judgment(s) were directed especially to the land of Israel. However, what will be said later about prophesying “about many peoples, nations, tongues, and kings” is showing that John’s words are to be conveyed to Israel about what has occurred among the Gentiles. Just as Ezekiel was directed to speak to Israel, so John is now. Remember, it is they who rejected Christ, and who were exiled in disbelief for two thousand years. Now that they are regathered into the land, they need to be reinstructed concerning Him. Thus, the contents of the book–
They diffuse light and truth.
They are short and concise in their volume and stated purpose.
They are intended to be transmitted in order to be understood.
They are directed to Israel again.
They contain specifics about many peoples, nations, tongues, and kings.
What is it that the nations have heard and accepted that meets all of these points? It is the gospel of Jesus Christ. John is being shown that Israel will again be the focus of the conveyance of the gospel during the final seven years of Daniel’s “seventy sevens” found in Daniel 9:24-27.
With that understood, it next says, “And he set his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land.”
This message that has been conveyed to the entire world is in His hand. Further, the Angel is claiming authority over both the sea and the land. In a display of complete control over a vanquished nation, rulers of the past would go to the shore of the land and place their feet in this manner. It was a symbol that they held control over the entire realm. All trade, all industry, all the resources – all of it as acquired from the land or the sea – was under the authority of that ruler.
The Angel is claiming complete authority over the earth because He descended from heaven to earth. The Owner of the title deed to the earth, which was opened in chapter 5, is the One making the claim of total authority over the sea and the land in this verse. And, He has a book with a message to be conveyed with Him.
Life application: The amazing thing about our God is that He is sovereign over the world, and yet He allows us to disobey Him and ignore Him at will. Most sovereign rulers would simply snuff out those who rebel without giving them a chance, but God provides ample opportunity to the people of the world to turn to Him. The gospel continues to be conveyed, even during the times of His judgment upon peoples.
However, this is not to be taken as an excuse for putting off accepting His offer of peace. There is always an anticipated end to such disobedience when the cup of His indignation is full. It is eventually poured out in judgment. We, as His creatures, cannot be disobedient forever.
Lord God, it is so encouraging to know that despite man’s constant rebellion toward you, we also know that You are so very patient with the sons of men. Instead of immediate destruction, we receive mercy and blessing from Your open hand of loving provision. Through Your goodness, You continue to call to us in hopes that we will turn to You and be saved. This, even when we fight against You. Thank You for Your longsuffering and kindness. Amen.