1I saw another powerful angel come down from heaven. This one was covered with a cloud, and a rainbow was over his head. His face was like the sun, his legs were like columns of fire, 2and with his hand he held a little scroll that had been unrolled. He stood there with his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land. 3Then he shouted with a voice that sounded like a growling lion. Thunder roared seven times.
4After the thunder stopped, I was about to write what it had said. But a voice from heaven shouted, “Keep it secret! Don't write these things.”
5 The angel I had seen standing on the sea and the land then held his right hand up toward heaven. 6He made a promise in the name of God who lives forever and who created heaven, earth, the sea, and every living creature. The angel said, “You won't have to wait any longer. 7God told his secret plans to his servants the prophets, and it will all happen by the time the seventh angel sounds his trumpet.”
8 Once again the voice from heaven spoke to me. It said, “Go and take the open scroll from the hand of the angel standing on the sea and the land.”
9When I went over to ask the angel for the little scroll, the angel said, “Take the scroll and eat it! Your stomach will turn sour, but the taste in your mouth will be sweet as honey.” 10I took the little scroll from the hand of the angel and ate it. The taste was sweet as honey, but my stomach turned sour.
11Then some voices said, “Keep on telling what will happen to the people of many nations, races, and languages, and also to kings.”
We tend to have a rather domesticated view of angels. Gentle, floaty creatures with delicate wings, or chubby cherubs sitting astride gravestones. The angel we meet now is of a different order. He is a colossus of a creature with a lion’s roar, threatening to release another wave of evil on the earth. The threat isn’t realized, but instead he holds out a “little scroll,” alluding to the seventh trumpet and talks about “the secret plans” of God (v 7).
The scroll is the same one we met in chapter 5 and it is given to John, who again enters into the action (compare 7:13) as he is told to digest its contents and proclaim them to the world. This chapter and the next are, I believe, pivotal to the whole of Revelation.
The scroll is opened and we see at last that it contains God’s plan to redeem a lost world. But how? We have seen that judgment alone does not do the trick because people either run away or fight back. They are not inclined to repent!
Now we discover that God’s secret plan is to bring the world to repentance and faith through the faithful witness of the Church. Really? Well, yes. John is told to do three things: eat the scroll, tell the truth, stay the course. So too our commission is to embody the good news and offer it, again and again, to an unbelieving world. It is a bitter sweet task, because what we hold dear may be rejected, but we are called to persevere. The Church is God’s secret weapon for the renewal of creation. No pressure then! If this doesn’t galvanize us to tell our story I don’t know what will.
Thank you, Father, for the good news of Jesus. Help me, today, to offer Christ, both by what I say but also by how I live, to those I meet. And thank you too for the Holy Spirit who will give me guidance and courage, In Jesus’ name. Amen.