27. The Seven Thunders

The Unveiling of Jesus Christ

The Concordant Version

CHAPTER 10:1-11


THE sixth trumpet is still sounding. Its effect on the votaries of the world religions has been described. They are the object of the most fearful supernatural visitations that this world will ever see. Their religions are superhuman and their judgment corresponds. But what of the one divine religion and the earthly people of God during this period? Are they included in the scope of the second woe? The destruction of false worship must necessarily have a powerful effect on the true. This we have presented to us in the vision of the strong messenger, the tiny scroll, and the seven thunders (Rev.10:1-11).

This is suggested to us in the words "I perceived another messenger..." There are two words which are usually rendered "another" in our versions. One means different, of another kind. This word means one more of the same kind. This is all the more striking, seeing that this strong messenger, descending from heaven, clothed with a cloud, rainbow-wreathed sun-faced, and fire-limbed, seems so different from the four messengers bound at the great river Euphrates. He is another, for he is one with them in the judgment of earth's religions. There are really five appointed to this task, and he is one of them.

There is no call whatever to identify this messenger with Christ. Indeed, there is little gained in giving him a name. His description and actions supply all we need to understand the significance of his appearance. If any messenger more than another should be chosen for this work it would probably be Michael. He is the great prince who stands for the sons of Israel at this time (Dan.12:1; Rev.12:7,9).

There is much food for meditation in the two terms cloud and smoke, or fumes, as used in this unveiling. Smoke, or fumes, arise from beneath from the heat of consuming flames. Clouds are drawn aloft by the warmth and attraction of the sun. One is used of judgment from beneath, the other from above. Fumes arose out of the abyss (9:2). Smoke arises from the conflagration of great Babylon (18:9). The Lord will come with clouds (1:7). He reaps the harvest of the earth seated on a cloud (14:16).

The cloud-clothed messenger is in contrast with Apollyon, amidst the fumes of the abyss, and the smoke-screened horses of the four messengers from the Euphrates. They came from beneath. He comes down from above. God delegates the destruction of the demon worshipers to terrestrial forces. He reserves the judgment of His own special people to ecclestial powers. When dealing out the judgment which is their due He pours out the bowls of hoarded indignation from above (15:7).

Men seek to alleviate their lot by looking for the silver lining when a gloomy cloud cuts off the sunshine. God's figure is much finer. He points us to the rainbow, which repeats His promise to remember human frailty when His judgments are in the earth. God's promises are much better than man's philosophies. The white judgment aureola which envelopes the messenger is surmounted with a full-orbed nimbus of every hue. It tells us that the sun is shining and will soon appear. It is beautiful in its appearance, and precious in its promise.

The feet effect contact with the earth. Our feet should be sandaled with the readiness of the evangel of peace (Eph.6:15). The feet of this messenger are the very antithesis of this. His feet are pillars of fire. Above he is benign and beautiful, but beneath, where he touches the earth and the sea, he is hot with the indignation of God and burning with the fierceness of His fury. God is conciliated now toward all mankind. Then He will be at war not only with the nations, but with the apostates of His people.

The most striking feature of the vision is not the glorious messenger himself, but a tiny scroll which he holds opened in his hands. Were it not so small our first impulse would be to identify it with the seven-sealed scroll which the Lambkin had taken out of the hands of the Enthroned One (5:7). Both are scrolls. Both have been opened. But beyond this, there is no resemblance. It is not the same in size. There is no mention of seven seals. It appears as if the messenger himself had opened it.

In Greek biblos means a scroll. The diminutive biblion, small scroll, does not seem to have sufficient distinction to enable us to see any difference in its usage. Biblion, little scroll, is used of Isaiah's prophecy (Luke 4:17), while biblos, scroll, is used of this Revelation (22:18), although the English version of Isaiah is more than thrice the length of the Apocalypse. In shorter writings, biblos, scroll, is used of the genealogical table from Abraham to Christ (Matt.1:1). Biblios, little scroll, is used of a certificate of divorce.

As the distinction between biblos and biblion had faded, it was necessary to use a more expressive diminutive when a very small document was intended. This was called a biblaridion (sometimes spelled biblidarion or biblarion). The texts are much confused, but practically all call this scroll a biblaridion at least once. Hence it is so uniformly in the CONCORDANT text, and the sublinear is tiny-SCROLL. It occurs only in these four passages in the Scriptures.

But the figure of a scroll, and opened, is enough to suggest that it, like the larger, seven-sealed document, is not a book to be read, but a legal instrument to be put into execution. The first scroll was concerned with the political deliverance of mankind. The tiny scroll, we take it, is the complement of the first, and has to do with the special deliverance of the holy people. Just as the breaking of the seven seals send judgment to all mankind in order to deliver it from its slavery, so the opening of the tiny scroll suggests that section of this unveiling (11:19 to 14:20) which culminates in the harvest and the vintage of the sacred nation.

The scroll is tiny, as compared with the previous one, because its scope is much more constricted. Yet it suggests sorer judgments than the larger scroll, for the seals and trumpets are replaced by the awful bellowing of the king of beasts and the terrifying reverberations of the thunderclap.

The seven thunders seem to be an anomaly in a book which purports to be an unveiling. Why should their utterances not be put on record? What connection have they with the tiny scroll? It will hardly do to be dogmatic on the details, but the setting in which they are found certainly seems to suggest a solution. The tiny scroll demands that God keep His covenants with Israel. Since these were not pure grace, they entailed judgment on those who did not keep them. Hence the thunders follow. The lightning flashes of divine judgment, as figured under the seven bowls (15,16) cannot be seen in this section, for they are connected with worship, rather than rule, but the resulting thunder is heard.

The seven bowls are poured out on apostate Israel at the same time that the sixth trumpet is terrorizing the other religions of mankind. God will judge His people, but He will not judge them with the world. In this, the throne section of the Unveiling, the souls under the altar are avenged, the hundred and forty-four thousand are sealed, the vast throng are delivered--—the judgments are for the nations, not Israel. Hence the seven thunders are sealed here, but their purport is revealed in the temple section.

The thought that the seven thunders coincide with the seven bowls is confirmed by an important note of time. The seven calamities or bowls are the last, for in them God's fury is consummated (Rev.15:1). So the messenger swears by the living Creator that there will be no longer delay. We have come to the last era which precedes the kingdom. It will not last longer than three and a half years. God will not postpone His promise or prolong His patience, for the time has arrived. Certainty takes the place of suspense.

It is only as we look back over the long and lingering delay which has characterized God's dealings with mankind that we can realize the tremendous import of this announcement. God's Christ and His kingdom have often seemed so near, only to fade away into the future. This is God's secret. The Father has kept the time to Himself (Acts 1:7). This was the announcement which the apostles sought before the day of Pentecost. This is the proclamation which so often comes from the false prophets. But, until the middle of the last heptad, no one will know the time. Then, however, anyone who can count can calculate the days. There will be exactly twelve hundred and sixty until Christ's epiphany.

There has been an apparent delay from the very first. Eve thought the Messiah had come to crush the serpent's head when Cain appeared. So she exclaimed, "I have acquired the man, Yahweh!" When Abraham came into the line of promise, he grew restive and sought to help hasten its fulfillment. Finally, Daniel was given a definite period. Seventy heptads were cut out before the kingdom could come. Sixty-nine ran their course. The Messiah came, but was cut off. When He rose, hope revived that the kingdom would speedily be restored to Israel. He refused to promise this. The whole period of the book of Acts is one of suspense. At the close, another delay is announced. The eras of the nations must intervene. When, O when, will the kingdom come? A thousand years drag their weary length along. Another thousand; and still there is delay. The time is God's secret. Not until the strong messenger lifts his hand to high heaven and swears that there will be no longer delay shall mankind be released from the heart sickness that comes from hope deferred. When the seventh trumpet sounds then the promises of the prophets will be present.

The eating of the tiny scroll (10:8-11) and its effects are in fullest accord with the proposed interpretation. What could be sweeter to John's palate than a foretaste of the kingdom coupled with the announcement of its imminence? Yet at this juncture, it involved all the bitterness of the time of Jacob's trouble. It could come only through the travail of Israel (12:2), and her persecution by the dragon (12:13), and the still sorer straits of those who will not worship the wild beast.

Even we enjoy the sweetness of His imminence. We do not know, but we feel that He cannot delay much longer. We see the stage being set for the next act in earth's tragedy. The nations are aligning themselves for the end time. Israel has returned to the land. There is the confusion of shifting scenes. And we know that the next act cannot commence until we wing our way hence. How happy is the hope of His return! How glorious the going forth to meet Him in the air! How precious is the prospect of abiding in His presence! Then we shall be with Him and like Him and for Him! The very thought is sweeter than honey to our hearts.

And, blessed be His name, there is no bitterness to precede its realization! Such is the glory of His grace for the members of His body that even their participation in the apostasy cannot cancel His appointment to meet them in the air, nor can drowsiness and indifference hinder the fulfillment of His tryst with them there. Israel will suffer sorely on the eve of His advent. The most terrible of all persecutions and pogroms will precede His appearing to the earth. But we have no such worries. We wait, in joyful anticipation, not for signs and sorrows, but for Himself.

The seven thunders, then, are links which associate this woe with the similar judgments of the bowls. Not only are the false religions destroyed, but the true is judged and prepared for its place in the kingdom that is about to come.

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