The Cast of Chapter Ten

The Cast of Chapter Ten, Audio Version

Count the characters. This chapter of Revelation presents listeners with a variety of characters. How many do you count? While some observers say Chapter Ten presents listeners with ten different characters, I see six fewer. No, not ten — only four. One, two, three, four, and no more characters are to be found in Chapter Ten. Of those four, one or two are primary and focal, while the other two are mostly peripheral. You might not agree with me. You might count more. How is it I count only four? Why so few? 

John, of course, counts as one character, albeit a relatively minor character. John serves throughout the Book of Revelation as the vision transcriber and as our narrator. For the most part, John quietly and inconspicuously narrates what he sees and hears, and does so whenever possible from the periphery. He does not focus on himself. That is true here in Chapter Ten, except for when he must eat the edible yet indigestible scroll. More on the edible scroll in a forthcoming blog cast.  

The Seven Speaking Thunders count as a second character. I say they are a character, as opposed to an event, since they do more than rumble. They speak, and speak intelligibly. Although they are said to number seven, they neither do nor say anything obviously distinctive from each other, but appear to function just as one message bearer. Perhaps they spoke simultaneously in stereo surround sound or echoed the same message in turn; yet nothing in the text indicates that they delivered seven different messages. Again, the Seven Speaking Thunders seem to function narratively as just one character. Furthermore, the Thunders cannot be considered a major character in Chapter Ten, since they appear only briefly in verses 3 and 4, where they deliver a message that is curiously censored, and immediately so. 

Forgive me, but to make my point I must resort to Seminary-speak in this paragraph. As I already said, the Seven Speaking Thunders function narratively as one — as a singularity. That fact may be intended to point Revelation’s listeners to an underlying ontological/essential reality: Somehow the Seven Speaking Thunders are best understood as one — a unified one. Ontologically (that is, in essence), they may be just one spiritual entity. Like the Seven Spirits of Revelation 1:4 and 4:5, the Seven Speaking Thunders may constitute not seven separate and distinct individuals, but just one single, yet diverse, entity. Indeed, if Chapter Ten is best interpreted using a Trinitarian hermeneutic, as I would argue it ought to be, then the Seven Speaking Thunders may well be one and the same as the Seven Spirits before the Throne — the one Holy Spirit. I am suggesting that the Seven Speaking Thunders may be the same entity as the Seven Spirits before the Throne, also and more commonly known as the Holy Spirit. Please reference in particular Revelation 4:5, where peals of thunder and seven flaming torches are some of the phenomena associated with the Throne of God. 

As for Chapter Ten’s third character, the Mighty Angel stands center stage. And the fourth character, though very, very important, is heard but never seen. That would be the Voice from Heaven. Throughout its eleven verses, Chapter Ten turns John’s attention, and thus the listener’s attention, to these two primary characters, who sometimes act and speak in tandem. Do notice that the Mighty Angel gets most of Chapter Ten’s airtime, by far. Thus the Mighty Angel ought to be considered Chapter Ten’s central character and primary focus.  

Now that the four main characters have been counted, I will move on to my next controversial claim. Here it is: The main character is probably not whom you think he is.  

Many Revelation-readers/listeners will quickly get the identity of one of these characters right, and just as quickly get identity of the other character wrong. The Voice from Heaven must be God, they will decide, and correctly so. As for the Mighty Angel, he is most likely a high-ranking angel, such as an archangel, many will conclude, incorrectly. Sorry, but that’s the wrong answer, albeit entirely understandable. No, the Mighty Angel is not merely a high-ranking angel. He is mighty. The adjective is there for a reason. He is mightier than other messengers, and far greater than other heavenly emissaries. The Mighty Angel is someone mightier than other messengers, and yet someone other than God Almighty. Who could it be?   

Many Revelation interpreters will doubt with my assertions at this point. Some may anticipate where I am going, and disagree with me on this point. They will argue that the Mighty Angel is obviously portrayed as a high-ranking angel. The text clearly says he is an angel, so he must be a heavenly emissary, simply an angel. What else or who else could he be? If not a high-ranking angel or an archangel, what else or who else could the Mighty Angel of Revelation Chapter Ten possibly be?

That is a key question, a crucially important question. Chapter Ten effectively poses that very question to those who are familiar with the Bible. But those who are not well acquainted with Old Testament prophecies will likely make some quick assumptions and even miss the question altogether, because it is implied. The Book of Revelation makes a lot of subtle scriptural references and drops a lot of detailed hints. Key questions and leads are there to be discovered; but they usually require a significant degree of prior biblical knowledge and a substantial measure of theological discernment. The Book of Revelation does this sort of thing very frequently. You gain deeper understanding of the Book of Revelation as you catch the subtle referential hints, which are almost always hidden in plain sight, there in the details. In fact, it may be an accurate statement to claim that no detail whatsoever in the Book of Revelation is extraneous. Every detail given to the listener and provided by the Book of Revelation is there deliberately and intentionally. Such details often require further study. The interpreter will have to reference and re-read Old Testament prophecies. But it will be worthwhile, since the details will help a careful interpreter arrive at a clearer interpretation.

To be blunt, the hints all point to the Mighty Angel being Jesus Christ himself. More specifically, the Mighty Angel is a New Testament cameo of the pre-incarnate, pre-existent Jesus Christ. The Mighty Angel is who Christ Jesus was before he was born as a human being. Throughout the Old Testament, Jesus appears and reappears as a mysterious figure known as the Angel of the Lord. And Revelation Chapter Ten is dropping hints galore that the Mighty Angel is the pre-incarnate Christ. That is indeed the correct interpretation, in spite of how things may initially seem on a superficial, un-referential read.

In particular, two key Old Testament passages are hidden in the details of Revelation Chapter Ten. The first key passage is the opening vision of Ezekiel the exiled priestly-prophet, found in the Book of Ezekiel chapters one and two. The second key passage is the concluding vision of Daniel the exiled statesman-prophet, found in the Book of Daniel chapters ten, eleven, and twelve. If a reader/listener compares Revelation Chapter Ten to the opening chapters of Ezekiel and the closing chapters of Daniel, the detailed references are overwhelmingly obvious.

In both the opening of Ezekiel and the closing of Daniel, a Mysterious Figure appears. Although the Mysterious Figure seems like he might well be God himself, the two passages leave the  identity of the Mysterious Figure something of a mystery, because unlike God, he is described as visible and likened in form to a human being, a man. So if he is not exactly God, who is the Mysterious Figure? Is he a variation or manifestation of God, or an angelic proxy, or what? Revelation Chapter Ten points the discerning listener directly to both prophetic passages, and links the Mighty Angel to the Mysterious Figure therein, leaving the distinct impression that the Mighty Angel is one and the same as the Mysterious Figure in both passages. 

Therefore, at least three claims can be made. First, the Mysterious Figure in Ezekiel and Daniel is, at very least, God-like in position, appearance, and glory. Second, the Mysterious Figure in Ezekiel and Daniel personally and authoritatively delivers divine messages and interpretations to the respective prophets. Third, Revelation Chapter Ten ties or even fuses these two Mysterious Figures together into one. In Chapter Ten, the equation is not one plus one, but one times one. This is just one individual. The Mysterious Figure in the opening chapters of Ezekiel is one and the same as the Mysterious Figure in the closing chapters of Daniel; that is what Revelation Ten portrays in the person of the Mighty Angel.  

So if the Mysterious Figure of Ezekiel, Daniel, and Revelation is the same singular being throughout, who is he? If your inclination is to say that he is an angel of some sort, I would caution you with the observation that he is enthroned in glory among the cherubim in Ezekiel (see also Ezekiel 10:20). Enthroned in glory, like God and as God. Among the cherubim, like the mercy seat of the ark of the covenant, where the presence of God resided. However, if your inclination is to say that he is simply God, I would ask you, How is it that he appears visibly in the likeness of a man in both Ezekiel and Daniel? How is it the prophets can see anyone at all, since God is invisible, and since no one can see God and live (see Exodus 33:20, John 1:18, and 1 Timothy 6:16)?

This individual defies easy categorization because he actually fulfills all three. He is wholly divine. But sometimes he takes the role of a heavenly angel/messenger in order to appear to human beings. But then he went an additional condescending step and even assumed full humanity in the incarnation. He became a man for our sake. Only one individual in history fits all three categorizations: Jesus Christ. Therefore, especially when its two primary Old Testament prophetic references are taken into account, Chapter Ten of Revelation pushes a trinitarian portrait of God, the whole way through. The Voice from Heaven is God the Father. The Seven Speaking Thunders are the Holy Spirit. And the Mighty Angel is Jesus Christ. 

But I have not covered everything in Chapter Ten yet. There are two big remaining narrative issues from Chapter Ten that need to be addressed. There is a vow made by the Mighty Angel. And there is an edible scroll given by the Mighty Angel.    

A Peculiar Person

Saturday, June 6th, 2020

A Peculiar Person, Audio Version

In Acts 1:15, Luke mentions that about 120 disciples were gathered in Jerusalem. They were waiting for what was to come. Before he left, Jesus had given them clear instructions. He had told them to say put in Jerusalem and wait for it. Stay and wait. Wait for the capital-P promise. Wait for the Promise to arrive. So they stayed. And they waited. They waited for days and days. They waited patiently for the Promise. Like children eager for Christmas morning, they waited until the Day of Pentecost for the Promise.

On the morning of Pentecost the Promise arrived, in person. A person arrived dramatically that morning, the Promised Person. The Promise was and is a person. The Promise is a particular person, but a person unlike any other you’ve ever encountered. The Promise is a peculiar person. 

Okay, I have to get a bit technical here. Hang in there, please. Person can potentially be a misperceived at this point. It can possibly be a misleading pointer. Given your probable preconceptions, the word person could be perplexing. But it is the proper word, nonetheless. It is the word I have to use. The Promise is definitely a person, but is not a human being. The Promise is a person because he is truly an individual entity. He is himself. He is a living, identifiable entity. He has personal integrity. He is a cognizant, relational, identifiable, unique, and peculiar person. But he is not a human being. 

As we talk about the Promise, we have to be careful to explain what we mean, even in the use of common words. I need explain what I mean by it and he here. Rather than the pronoun it, I use the pronoun he because I need you to understand that the Promise is actually a person. He is a person, as opposed to an energy field or impersonal force. The English language poses a problem here, though, because it offers us only two gender specific pronouns. The Promise-person really should not be assigned a gender, because “he” has no gender. Some other languages do have pronouns that are not gender specific. It would be easier to meaningfully talk about a genderless person using a pronoun from those languages. But since I am using English here, I will stick with the pronoun he, just to impress the concept of personhood. He is a person. 

Yes, I agree. It can be quite confusing to talk about a non-human, non-gendered entity. I readily admit that. What kind of person is this? What kind of entity is this? Is he some kind an extra-terrestrial? Am I talking about ET? Do I need to phone home?

Well, yes, he is an extra-terrestrial. But no, he is not an outer space alien. Yes, he does come from way beyond. But no, he does not travel in a flying saucer. He does not need an exterior mode of transportation. He is able just to arrive and depart on will, wherever and anywhere.     

Unlike other persons, this Promise-person is not contained spatially to a body. This Promise-person can repeatedly divide himself, without any damage done, and without any loss of integrity, potency, or personality. Somewhat like water, he can fragment and disperse himself. He can also re-condense himself. He can contract, expand, disperse, and regather at will. He is person, but a peculiar person without a body. He is just not limited, in terms of space and dimension — unless he voluntarily chooses to be limited.  

Since these spatial characteristics are so freakishly beyond our usual categories of what it means to be a person, we have no choice but to resort to analogies. If we wish to talk meaningfully about him, we have to use analogies. We must say he is like this thing or like that. Like, like, like — we will use a lots of likes. For example, the Promise is somewhat like water. And the Promise is a lot like fire. We necessarily resort to symbols and analogies when we talk about him. We have no choice but to do so. He is just so peculiar, so different. He is a much different person than us. He is different than what is normal and natural to us. He is a peculiar person. He is incomparable; but we have to use comparisons. He is an incomparable, peculiar, supernatural person. In fact, he’s God.        

The fact that we necessarily use symbols to talk about the Promise will be important to keep in mind when I return to my direct discussion of symbolism in the Book of Revelation. Fire is the most frequent symbol for the Promised Holy Spirit in the Book of Revelation. Remember that.  

As implied previously, the Promise simply has no physical limitations. He can pass through any physical barrier. He can limit himself to physical space, if he chooses. He can confine himself, disperse himself, concentrate himself, retract himself, expand himself. He can and does operate within physical dimensions. But they pose no problem to him. He is not limited by any physical barrier. This has huge implications for us as Christians. 

The Promise voluntarily confines himself to willing human beings. He indwells individuals. If a human being recognizes the truth about who Jesus is, and submits to Jesus’ authority, the Promise takes up residence within him or her. The Promise indwells the Christian. The Christian thereby becomes a temple of sorts. A temple of the Holy Spirit. A supernatural entity dwells here within.

As strange as all this may sound, it is very real. And it is powerful. The same entity— the same Spirit — that raised Christ from the dead indwells you and hangs out within you, 24/7. Consider the implications. Consider the possibilities. Consider both the implications and possibilities, for there are many. 

On the condition of your recognition of and submission to the Lord Jesus Christ, you have a limitless source of life-giving power available to you, all the time — through the rest of your mortal life, and beyond. Much of the New Testament serves as a users’ handbook for accessing and maximizing the Promise’s power. If you wish to make full use of your resident Promise and his power, go familiarize yourself personally with the handbook, and also join a group of people who are committed to the same. And then go make use of the Promise.