Revelation 10:8–11 (NKJV)
After seeing the great angel holding the little book speak amidst the seven thunders, and then calling for the sounding of the seventh trumpet, John is then given further instructions concerning the little book.
8 Then the voice which I heard from heaven spoke to me again and said, “Go, take the little book which is open in the hand of the angel who stands on the sea and on the earth.”Revelation 10:8-11
9 So I went to the angel and said to him, “Give me the little book.”
And he said to me, “Take and eat it; and it will make your stomach bitter, but it will be as sweet as honey in your mouth.”
10 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. 11 And he said to me, “You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, tongues, and kings.”
In this passage, John is instructed to ask for the little book and to eat it, similar to the command of God to Ezekiel in chapter 3 of his prophetic book. This command symbolizes the call to prophetic ministry, especially that prophecy that must be internalized and embraced by the prophet for its eschatological importance. John obeys the command to take the book by going and asking the great angel for the book that is open in the hands of the angel. This book could be the completely unsealed book or scroll from Revelation 5, or it could simply be a new book in the narrative of the vision. Since the contents of the Revelation 5 book were not actually revealed, only the actions accompanying the breaking of the seals, this could be that same book. The Lamb has broken the seals, and now its contents could be revealed to mankind. However, this is not certain. What is certain, however, is that this book, internalized and digested by John, is sweet to the mouth but bitter to the stomach. Being called to prophesy for the Most Holy God is a high honor and makes one feel the importance and joy of the act of commissioning. To be called by God is the highest calling of any on earth. However, the content of the book would prove to be dark and ominous, with curses and dread coming from that book. This is the bitter pill that must be swallowed when one accepts the call of God to speak judgment over the evil rebels that reject God and must come under His punishment.
John is happy to answer the call and commission of God, but soon realizes that the message he must deliver is sad and dreadful. This message is supposed to have been sealed by Daniel, and perhaps runs parallel to the message of Ezekiel in its mode of delivery to the prophet. This message is the unfolding of words from God through the ages, and is now coming to fruition in this moment of John’s calling to deliver it. John is further told that this message must be delivered to “peoples, nations, tongues, and kings.” John is commissioned to speak to world leaders and countries around the world that have not responded to the Christian gospel. He is to denounce their wickedness and call them to repentance. While multiple attempts at this have failed because of the hardness of their hearts, this message of judgment is given, but will likely go unheeded as well. John is given a nearly impossible task, and he knows it. This is the bitterness of calling the sinful to repentance. While the message is powerful and liberating, the prophet or preacher knows that many will not accept and be saved. The sweet message of salvation is joyful, but the rejection of the gospel is not only bitter because of the rejection, but also because of the judgment that will come upon those who reject it. Preachers preach praying and hoping for repentance and salvation, but the bitter stomach comes from those who need Jesus, but do not accept Jesus. We preach because we are called, but we mourn over those who refuse the blessed gift of grace. Yet we preach still, because the sweet calling is greater in our minds than the bitter rejection. At least some are saved, and that sweet payoff is worth the risk of bitter rejection.
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