Another angel is seen coming down from heaven (v.1) and he had in his hand a little book (v.2).
Who is this angel? (v.1) Sometimes in Scripture the Lord is represented by an angel (Exodus 3:2-6,13-15). Here he is called “another mighty angel” which may imply he is different from the seven trumpet angels. He has a rainbow was on His head. Where have we seen a rainbow before? In Revelation 4:1-3 “… there was a rainbow round about the throne, …”
His face was like “the sun” (v.1). In Matthew 17:2 we read,
And was transfigured before them: and His face did shine as the sun, and His raiment [clothing] was white as the light.
Also 2 Corinthians 4:6 and Revelation 1:14.
His feet were “as pillars of fire”. In Revelation 1:15 “… His feet like to fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace…“. This strongly indicates it is the Lord Jesus Christ here. Also read Habakkuk 3:3-6:
3 God came from Teman [תֵּימָן, the south], and the Holy One from mount Paran. Selah. His glory covered the heavens, and the earth was full of His praise. 4 And His brightness was as the light; He had horns [קֶרֶן qeren, as rays of light] coming out of his hand: and there was the hiding of His power. 5 Before Him went the pestilence, and burning coals went forth at His feet. 6 He stood, and measured the earth: He beheld, and drove asunder the nations; and the everlasting mountains were scattered, the perpetual hills did bow [in worship]: His ways are everlasting.
This ‘little book’ in His hand (v.2) symbolises the Bible. It is described as an open book, possibly meaning that the prophecy was still being written in that book, the prophecies that are revealed in this final book of the Bible.
His standing on sea and land (the earth) (v.2) indicates that his mission was to the whole world. This mission is Christ initiating the Reformation of the 16th century which changed the world. Martin Luther 95 Theses declaration was proclaimed October 31, 1517. The Church of Rome controlled the Bible. The people were not allowed to have it and it was only interpreted through the apostate church. In this sense the little open book represents the fact that the people, who are represented by ‘the sea’, were now able to get access to the Words of God through the Reformation and the translation of the Bible into their own languages.
The Roman Catholic Church was opposed to its circulation, and many persons were burned for the only crime of possessing a Bible. The book was left sealed up in dead languages (e.g. Latin), and it was impossible to be read in native European languages. This radiant angel, however, has in his hand a book open, significant of the fact that by God’s providence the Reformation should present the New Testament, open, to the world.
The printing press had been invented by the German Johannes Gutenberg, in the Holy Roman Empire, around 1439. By 1452, with the aid of borrowed money, Gutenberg began his famous Bible project. Two hundred copies of the two-volume Gutenberg Bible were printed (the Latin Vulgate).
In Revelation 9 we saw that the prophecy well fitted history when the Turkish armies crossed the Euphrates river and conquered the paganised Christian Byzantine Empire eventually establishing the Ottoman Empire there in 1453 AD (only one year after Gutenberg’s Bible was printed). This resulted in the fall of Constantinople as the capitol of the eastern part of old pagan Rome’s empire. When this happened many ancient NT manuscripts, which the west had never seen, were taken to western Europe by monks who fled the Muslim onslaught. It was because of these thousands of Greek NT texts that the next phase of Christ delivering the Bible (the little book, this time literally compiled as a book like we know today) to the people (the sea and the earth).
Chosen Greek NT texts were compiled by Desiderius Erasmus (a Catholic Bible scholar), and first published/printed them in 1516, which opened the Bible to be translated into many new native languages, especially English. It was from his compilation the Textus Receptus (the Received Text) took its form after several editions. The King James Bible was translated from Beza’s 5th edition Greek NT. And the English Bible was spread throughout the world on land and sea.
“When the seven thunders had uttered their voices…” (v.4)
The seven thunders uttered their voices when the angel cried in a loud voice. John was forbidden to record what they uttered. Certain facts will help us to understand what is meant. 1. The apostate power which had taken away and closed the book of the New Testament was called the seven-hilled city, and is alluded to in Revelation as the woman that sat on seven mountains (chap. 17:9). 2. The word thunder has been constantly used to describe the threatening, blasphemous, and authoritative fulminations issued by the seven-hilled power against its enemies. To illustrate this, Le Bas says in his life of Wiclif, page 198: “The thunders which shook the world when they issued from the seven hills, sent forth an uncertain sound, comparatively faint and powerless, when launched from a region of less devoted sanctity.” These ecclesiastical thunders derived their power from the fact that they were hurled from the seven-hilled city. Very appropriately the bulls and anathemas of Rome may then be called the seven thunders. 3. It is a historic fact that the opening of the book by the Reformation, called forth the loudest voices of the seven thunders. The anathemas that had been wont to shake the nations were hurled at Luther and his supporters.
John says that he was about to write what they uttered. His act is symbolic. He becomes himself a part of the symbolism. His act shows that the voices of the seven thunders claimed a record as of divine authority. There was something uttered, and what was uttered was so presented that John was about to record it in the word of God. Then he heard a voice from heaven which bade him seal up what was uttered and write it not. When we remember that the thunders that issued from the Vatican were regarded by the nations as the voice of God, and that the Pope claimed to be the vicar of Christ, we can understand the meaning of John’s symbolical purpose to record them as a part of the word of God, and also that of the heavenly voice which forbade them to be written. It simply represents what did take place among the reformers. There was an open book offered to the world. This resulted in the voices of thunder of the seven-hilled city. At first there was a disposition on the part even of Martin Luther, to listen to these thunders as divine, but finally he committed the Papal Bull issued against his teachings to the flames to be rejected, and it was rejected by the Reformers. (Excerpted from Bible Study Tools)
In verses 5-7, particularly v.6 the mighty angel (the Lord) declares that “there should be time no longer.” This indicates time is short and that in the time of the seventh trumpet angel the whole consummation shall be reached (v.7). The usual course of history shall end.
In response to the anathemas, thunders, and persecutions, called forth by the Reformation, the mighty angel who stands on both sea and land lifted his hand and uttered his solemn oath that the period of probation, persecution and suffering on the part of the true Church, soon shall end. In Revelation 6:10 the suffering martyrs of Pagan persecution cried “How long, O Lord?” And here to the second great body of martyrs assurance is given that events are hastening to the end. The mystery shall be finished or completed when the seventh angel shall sound (v.7).
God spoke to John and told him to take and eat up the little book (v.8,9). See also Jeremiah 15:16; Ezekiel 3:1,3. This is further evidence that it is Bible, the Word of God, because it is said to be sweet to the taste (Psalm 19:10) but bitter to the belly (v.9,10). Bitter to the belly symbolise the effect of living it not just reading it. For those who live (or do) what the little book says persecutions are guaranteed (2 Timothy 3:12).
The little book represents all those translations of the Bible that proliferated after the Reformation. It is presented by an open book (v.2,8) to the world. Millions, perhaps, in all, were persecuted and put to death because they had accepted the book and suffered it to determine their lives and worship. Many millions died under the power of the apostate Roman Catholic Church because they dared to live by the little book.
God told John to ‘prophesy’ (v.11) to many nations, which is another way of saying to preach the gospel to the whole world. To prophesy is not only to foretell future events, but to declare the message of God. This message had been declared once by the Apostles, both in person, and by those who preached their words. Apostolic preaching had almost ceased for a very long time before the Reformation began. John, as the last representative of the Apostles, was commanded by Christ to prophesy. The word apostle means ‘one sent with a message’. This command (v.11) is thus for the establishment of missions by preaching of the gospel to all peoples and nations.