All Scripture quotations are from the 1901 American Standard Version unless otherwise noted.
1 And I saw another strong angel coming down out of heaven, arrayed with a cloud; and the rainbow was upon his head, and his face was as the sun, and his feet as pillars of fire;
2 and he had in his hand a little book open: and he set his right foot upon the sea, and his left upon the earth;
My interpretation of these:
“cloud” – Cloud of heavenly witnesses.
Refers to the rainbow that was given to remind us that God will not destroy the earth with a flood again (Ge 9:11-17). Thus I believe this “rainbow” is symbolic of the judgment of the world, but not by flood. We see this judgment in the seventh trumpet, yet to sound. Thus this chapter serves as an introduction to chapter 11, especially to the seventh trumpet.
“face was as the sun” – Reflecting the glory of God.
“feet as pillars of fire”
Some translations read “legs” instead of “feet.” Either way, “fire” is symbolic of judgment, and likely refers to the judgment of the earth (verses 6-7). That becomes especially clear when we consider that one foot is on the sea and one foot on the earth – indicating global judgment.
“a little open book”
I believe this is the New Testament. The NT is specifically about the Lord Jesus Christ and the Christian faith. It’s the truth of God to the world. It serves as a witness against the whole world of unbelievers.
3 and he cried with a great voice, as a lion roareth: and when he cried, the seven thunders uttered their voices.
4 And when the seven thunders uttered their voices, I was about to write: and I heard a voice from heaven saying, Seal up the things which the seven thunders uttered, and write them not.
I’m not going to try and speculate what the “seven thunders” are. Obviously, this is not something God wants us to know. Thus I think it unwise to even guess. However, I do think we’re to gain something from this. It indicates that there are some things that God simply doesn’t want to reveal to us. There are some things that are not for us to know — at least for now in this life. We will always have questions about God and how He carries out His plan for the world, and what Heaven is like, etc. But we have to be patient and wait for that day when we are finally in His presence. Meanwhile, we have to trust that God is just and holy in everything He does, and we’re never to doubt that. This is particularly important to keep in mind as we read about God’s judgment upon this Christ-rejecting world:
5 And the angel that I saw standing upon the sea and upon the earth lifted up his right hand to heaven,
6 and sware by him that liveth for ever and ever, who created the heaven and the things that are therein, and the earth and the things that are therein, and the sea and the things that are therein, that there shall be delay no longer:
7 but in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, then is finished they mystery of God, according to the good tidings which he declared to his servants the prophets.
“There shall be delay no longer”
This means that in the “days of the voice of the seventh angel,” the “mystery of God” will be finished. This refers to God’s judgment upon the world. This chapter prepares us for the seventh trumpet. As the One who “created” the whole universe, God has absolute authority over it. God and His plan for the world may be a mystery now, but when God judges the world, that mystery will disappear with the disappearance of the world. God will reveal Himself to the unbelieving world in unmistakable ways. Ultimately, everyone will stand before Him – believers and unbelievers alike – at the Great White Throne Judgment (Rev 20:11-15; Ro 14:10-12; Phil 2:9-11). At that time, every knee will bow before Christ and confess Him as Lord. All unbelievers will fully know then, the terrible mistake they made in rejecting the true God.
“which he declared to his servants the prophets”
Refers to both Old and New Testament prophets and Apostles.
8 And the voice which I heard from heaven, I heard it again speaking with me, and saying, Go, take the book which is open in the hand of the angel that standeth upon the sea and upon the earth.
9 And I went unto the angel, saying unto him that he should give me the little book. And he saith unto me, Take it, and eat it up; and it shall make thy belly bitter, but in thy mouth it shall be sweet as honey.
10 And I took the little book out of the angel’s hand, and ate it up; and it was in my mouth sweet as honey: and when I had eaten it, my belly was made bitter.
Again, in context, the angel standing upon the sea and the earth, indicates global judgment. The “little book” in his hand – likely the New Testament Scriptures – serves as a witness against the world of unbelievers, and reveals the justice of God against sinners.
This book being “sweet” in John’s mouth, indicates that is what the Word of God is to us believers in Christ. However, it’s a book of “bitterness” to unbelievers. It’s a book of sweet salvation to us, while it’s a bitter book of judgment to unbelievers (2 Cor 2:14-16).
11 And they say unto me, Thou must prophesy again over many peoples and nations and tongues and kings.
NASB – 11 And they said to me, “You must prophesy again concerning many peoples and nations and tongues and kings.”
I believe this means that this revelation that John is seeing isn’t over with yet. What remains, he will continue to prophesy via the written word. However, it’s also true that what we’re reading now in this whole book of Revelation is John prophesying again “concerning many peoples and nations and tongues and kings.” He and the other writers of the New Testament (“little book”), continue to proclaim the truth to the world today — again and again and again. I believe this indicates the continuous nature of the word of God, that God watches over it, that it can’t be destroyed. It will continue forever and ever.