Then I took the little book out of the angel’s hand and ate it, and it was as sweet as honey in my mouth. But when I had eaten it, my stomach became bitter. (Revelation 10:10)
One of the metaphors the Bible offers for itself is that of food. Proverbs 9:1-5 pictures God’s wisdom as a meal set before us. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 3 of the milk of the Word. Hebrews 5:14 describes the meat of the Word. Just as the Jews were fed manna from heaven each day in the wilderness, so God has daily sustenance for us as we walk in the spiritual wilderness of this world. “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” (Matt.4:4) The Psalmist declared God’s Word to be, “Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.” (Ps.19:10) John, in Revelation 10, tasted the sweetness of that truth, but then it turned bitter on his stomach. We will explore this further.
We are first arrested by the appearance of an awesome angel (v.1-3). He is not named, and his characteristics have led some to conclude this is Jesus Christ. There are Old Testament manifestations of Jesus as the Angel of the LORD. This was Christ’s way of revealing Himself to men before His incarnation in Bethlehem. While we cannot say with certainty, this seems to be more than an angel, even an archangel, but instead the Angel of the LORD—Jesus Christ.
While we may speculate on the angel’s identity, we have no idea about the message that He carried (v.4). John was forbidden to write it, and so we do not know it. Paul was given revelations when he was caught up into the third heaven that he, also, was barred from sharing. There are some things we are not meant to know this side of eternity. We walk by faith and not by sight. Now, we see through a glass darkly. In some of the inexplicable heartaches of life, I can be comforted in knowing this:
Trials dark on every hand and we cannot understand
All the ways that God would lead us to that blessed Promised Land;
But He’ll guide us with His eye and we’ll follow till we die;
We will understand it better by and by.”
Whatever the nature of the message, the nearness of it is highlighted (v.5-7). Revelation is a book that describes the return of Jesus Christ and the consummation of the age. When this message is proclaimed there have always been those who mocked, “Where is the promise of His coming?” (2 Pet.3:4a) My answer is: “A lot closer than ever!” When the judgments of the last days begin, they will rapidly cascade and be completed in only seven years. Indeed, the sounding of the seventh trumpet (v.7) will bring the final three and one-half years of the Great Tribulation—a time of trial so intense, that Jesus said that if it were not short in duration, all life would become extinct (Matt.24:22).
John ingests the truth and it is sweet to him (v.8-10a). Honey is such a wondrous food. It promotes health and imparts energy. Don’t we find that to be true of the Word of God! But, when John digests the truth it becomes sour to his stomach (v.10b-11). The Apostle of Love was preaching a message of judgment. While He was thankful for the salvation of those who received it, he was tearful for those who rejected it—such a bitter end for them!