The Colossus, A Vow, and An Edible Small Scroll

The Colossus, a Vow, and an Edible Small Scroll

Aside from shouting loudly with a roar like a lion, the Mighty Angel in Revelation Chapter Ten performs two conspicuous actions. First, he raises his right hand to heaven and makes a solemn vow by Him who lives forever and ever that there will be “NO MORE DELAY!” And second, he gives Narrator John an edible small scroll and instructs him to eat it, but warns John beforehand that it will hard on his stomach. Therefore, we will focus here on a solemn vow of prompt completion and an edible, yet indigestible small scroll. In my previous blog-cast I mentioned that I would get to each these two loose ends from Revelation Chapter Ten, so here I go.

As I explained previously, the Mighty Angel is actually Christ Jesus himself, but in the guise of the Angel of the Lord, which was how he appeared to people over and over throughout the Old Testament. The Mighty Angel (who is Christ Incognito) stands on the sea and the land. To stand on the sea and the land is a symbolic action of dominance. It shows the Mighty Angel’s supreme sovereignty over the Sea and the Land. Throughout the Book of Revelation the Sea represents foreign and distant nations, especially the diverse ethnic groups that populated the Roman Empire. The Land represents local and native people, which would mean the Jewish people, if and when Israel is the narrative point of reference, or alternatively, the natives of Roman Asia, if the Province of Asia is the point of reference. Thus the strident symbolism is meant to show that even when Christ is Christ Incognito, he is still sovereign and dominant over the the various peoples of the Roman Empire, and by extension, the whole world.

For the first recipients of Revelation, the natives of Provincial Asia, this imagery of the Mighty Angel astride the land and sea very likely (read: almost certainly) brought to mind the nearby ruins of the Colossus of Rhodes. The Colossus of Rhodes was once a tourist-attracting giant harbor-front statue, something like the Statue of Liberty near Manhattan. Like the Temple in Jerusalem, the Colossus of Rhodes was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. And also like the Temple in Jerusalem, the Colossus of Rhodes was associated with one particular deity; in the case of the Colossus, that deity was the Hellenistic sun god Helios. But by the time Revelation was written and circulating, both had been toppled and were in ruins. The Temple in Jerusalem had been demolished by Emperor Titus’s troops, the Colossus of Rhodes by an earthquake. It is contextually telling, therefore, that the Mighty Angel of Revelation Ten stands astride the sea and the land. Revelation’s message must be that Jesus Christ stands supremely sovereign, where the Colossus had fallen.

Back to the narrative of the passage, though. In the fifth verse of Chapter Ten, the Mighty Angel raises his right hand to make his vow of prompt completion. This hand-raising action refers back to not one but two key Old Testament passages. The first passage is Deuteronomy 32:39-42, wherein God says, “For I lift up my hand to Heaven and swear, ‘As I live forever … I will take vengeance on my adversaries and will repay those who hate me.’” With the threat of certain vengeance, this might disturb a 21st century reader. But it makes the point clear that God is not to be trifled with. It also begs the question of whether the Mighty Angel is somehow the same person as the Divine Vow-Maker of Deuteronomy, given the strong similarities and the slight differences of the two passages. See my previous blog-cast entitled “The Cast of Chapter Ten” on that point.

The second passage is Daniel 12:5-13, where we see a Mysterious Figure — a Man. The Man is clothed in (white?) linen. He stands atop or above the Tigris River (see Daniel 10:4). He raises both his right hand and left hand to Heaven in a vow. He then informs (or perhaps more accurately, declines to clearly inform) the statesman-prophet Daniel how long he and his readers must wait until the end arrives. Daniel is given the cryptic answer of “a time, times, and half a time” until everything is accomplished. For Daniel, there will be delay — a very long delay. In the ninth verse of Daniel 12, the Mysterious Man solemnly says, “Go your way, Daniel, for the words are to remain secret (that is, a mystery) and sealed until the time of the End.” This passage is exactly what Revelation 10:5-7 references. Daniel is informed of a very long delay. Alternatively, John and his readers are promised that the delay will end promptly, when certain conditions are fulfilled. We are meant to catch that.

Of utmost importance, the Mighty Angel/Christ tells John that the Mystery of God will be fulfilled (or accomplished) when the seventh angel sounds his trumpet. What then, is the Mystery of God? Recall that the Mystery of God was sealed to Daniel. Does it remain sealed? Can we know what the Mystery of God is before the End? We can know it; and we do know it. We are already living in the last days, which is the Church Age. And we are privy to the Mystery of God.

While the Book of Revelation usually references the Old Testament, here we have to look to the New Testament. The Mystery of God is an important theme of the Apostle Paul’s. And yes, John’s listeners would have known that, because they were very familiar with the Pauline Epistles. Paul had written to them and their near-neighbors before John wrote Revelation. Therefore, when Jesus through John began talking about the Mystery of God, they knew exactly what he was talking about. The Mystery of God was their own adoption into the family of God. Adoption was and is the Mystery of God. Even though most of them were once pagan Gentiles, they had been invited to come join the household of God. Before the Church began, this was something unheard of and almost entirely unexpected. But God had extended an invitation to outsiders and foreigners. They, too, could accept the invitation and choose to be part of the household of God. The Mystery of God was the extent of his gracious invitation: It was even for Gentiles, who were previously excluded (see Ephesians 1:3-14; Colossians 1:24-27; 1 Timothy 3:14-16).   

Consequently, when the Mighty Angel/Christ says in Revelation 10:7 that the Mystery of God will be fulfilled when the the seventh angel sounds his trumpet, he means that when the End comes, all the Gentile peoples will have had a chance to accept the invitation to be adopted — to join the family of God. The Mystery of God is accomplished when the Church accomplishes its mission of proclaiming the Gospel of Christ worldwide (see Matthew 24:14; Mark 13:10).   

As for the scroll that the Mighty Angel gives to John, it contains information — bittersweet information. Although it is true and ultimately good, it is nonetheless very difficult and even sometimes terrifying. As with Ezekiel, the scroll that John must eat contains information about various trials and catastrophes that are yet to come (see Ezekiel 2 through 5, where God tells Ezekiel of the forthcoming destruction of Jerusalem). This is unwelcome information that the recipient must nonetheless pass along. It is information that pertains to the events of the End, as in, the end of the Church Age.

Considered as a whole, Chapter Ten is about Christ’s commissioning of John to pass along a preparatory revelation of the events to occur at the end of the Church Age, which I believe is about where we find ourselves in history. (Parenthetically, I say that because the fulfillment of the Great Commission seems both foreseeable and likely within the next century, if not sooner.) The contents of the Little Scroll are found in chapters eleven through twenty-two of the Book of Revelation. The Little Scroll reveals what Daniel 12 conceals. What was sealed to Daniel has been revealed to us by Christ via John in the Book of Revelation.

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