And I went unto the angel, and said unto him, Give me the little book. And he said unto me, Take it, and eat it up; and it shall make thy belly bitter, but it shall be in thy mouth sweet as honey. 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 as soon as I had eaten it, my belly was bitter. (Revelation 10:9-10)
Before ascending to His throne “on the right hand of the power of God” (Luke 22:69); Jesus hinted at the possibility that John the Beloved, might live until His return. “Jesus saith unto him [Peter], If I will that he [John] tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me” (John 21:22). In a way, that did indeed come to pass. John is probably the only one of Jesus’ apostles that died a natural death and did not experience martyrdom. Jesus granted John the unique privilege of seeing end-time events from a heavenly perspective.
While exiled on the island of Patmos for the sake of the Gospel (Revelation 1:9), John had a vision of the risen Christ and was “raptured” up to heaven to witness events at the end of time (Revelation 4:1). So, in a manner of speaking, John did indeed tarry until the coming of the Lord.
Beginning with Chapter 6 of the Apocalypse, John witnesses the horrors of the first half of the Tribulation. Following the sounding of the Sixth Trumpet (Revelation 9:13-21), there is a pause in the activity on earth and the scene shifts to what is taking place in heaven.
John describes the scene this way. “And I saw another mighty angel come down from heaven, clothed with a cloud: and a rainbow was upon his head, and his face was as it were the sun, and his feet as pillars of fire: And he had in his hand a little book open: and he set his right foot upon the sea, and his left foot on the earth” (Revelation 10:1-2, emphasis mine). The “mighty angel” that John saw is the Lord Jesus Christ. We know this by the description given by John. The Mighty Angel is clothed with a cloud as He was when He ascended to heaven (Acts 1:9). He is crowned with a rainbow like the one John saw around the throne of God (Revelation 4:3), and “His feet as pillars of fire” take us back to John’s initial meeting with the risen Christ (Revelation 1:15). He stands with one foot on the sea and the other on the land indicating His dominion over all the earth. Furthermore, He declares, “that there should be time no longer” (Revelation 10:6), something only God can control.
In His hand, He carries “a little book open.” A voice from heaven instructs John to take the little book from the Mighty Angel. Fearlessly, John records, “And I went unto the angel, and said unto him, Give me the little book” (Revelation 10:9a). We are awestruck by John’s boldness in the presence of the risen Lord until we recall that this was “that disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 21:7). “And he said unto me, Take it, and eat it up; and it shall make thy belly bitter, but it shall be in thy mouth sweet as honey. 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 as soon as I had eaten it, my belly was bitter” (Revelation 10:9b-10, emphasis mine).
Eating a book seems rather strange to us, but this is not the first time such imagery is presented in the Bible. The book represents the Word of God. God instructed the Prophet Ezekiel, “But thou, son of man, hear what I say unto thee; Be not thou rebellious like that rebellious house: open thy mouth, and eat that I give thee. And when I looked, behold, an hand was sent unto me; and, lo, a roll of a book was therein; And he spread it before me; and it was written within and without: and there was written therein lamentations, and mourning, and woe. (Ezekiel 2:8-10, emphasis mine). He continues, “So I opened my mouth, and he caused me to eat that roll. And he said unto me, Son of man, cause thy belly to eat, and fill thy bowels with this roll that I give thee. Then did I eat it; and it was in my mouth as honey for sweetness” (Ezekiel 3:2-3, emphasis mine).
The Prophet Jeremiah experienced something similar when he said, “Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by thy name, O LORD God of hosts” (Jeremiah 15:16, emphasis mine). The psalmist says, “The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb” (Psalm 19:9-10, emphasis). “How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Psalm 119:103).
For the child of God, His Word is sweet. It gives comfort, hope and security. Some have called it God’s love letter to the world. It is sweet to feast upon the Word of God. However, its consumption also brings bitterness. Why? Perhaps it is precisely because we are His children that we share His remorse for the lost who reject His Word. “Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord GOD: and not that he should return from his ways, and live?” (Ezekiel 18:23). “Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?” (Ezekiel 33:11, emphasis mine). “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9, emphasis mine).
The Word of God is Good News to the one who accepts it and consumes it; but it is bad news for the one who rejects its warnings. To the one who “eats” of its sweetness, it becomes bitterness knowing that friends and loved ones who reject its message are doomed to an eternity in “the lake of fire: (Revelation 20:15). Still, the Word of God is a “tasty book.”
Reader, if you have not tasted of God’s Word, time is getting short. Do not waste another day!