Summary: The glory of the Word of God arches over all the universe
As some of you may know I like Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit books. However, it is always a good to remember that you should never judge a book by its film. In the films of those books there are no pauses or interludes as the books do. We are not given any opportunity in the films to allow the stories to develop and to learn about the back story which aids in understanding what is happening on the screen at that moment. The film makers reckon we would get bored and that we have short attention spans and do not want to know the backstory. It is a bit like getting your news from the internet sites - you no longer read the newspaper from cover to cover to find out what is going on in the world. Revelation is full of action but there are certain pauses, intervals, interludes in the book. Here is one such interlude or pause - chapters 10 and 11. In these chapters we learn what is behind the action of the Revelation. Chapters 6 and 7 was one such pause and now we meet another one. These interludes are not so much pauses in the actual sequence of events as they are literary devices by which the church is instructed concerning its role and destiny during the final period of world history.
Quite literally this is a moment to catch your breath because from chapter 12 on the language of Revelation becomes even more dramatic and mysterious. The events of the coming end come sharply into focus from here on.
The key to understanding this chapter is to remember that the glory of the Word of God arches over all the universe and human history. We have just celebrated Christmas - a tiny little baby born in a stable because there was nowhere else for him to be born - stands supreme over all the earth - that is what we will see by the end of this interlude. Keep that in mind as we go through these verses this morning.
Verse 1 From 4.1 to this point John has seen the Revelation from the viewpoint of heaven but at this point he is back on earth and it is from that perspective these spiritual disclosures are made. A mighty angel descends from heaven, from the very presence of God. Three times in the Revelation we read of a mighty angel - the OT parallel to this is Daniel 12 and from this some argue that this mighty angel is in fact Gabriel, others say it is Michael. This mighty angel descends from the very presence of God to earth with a crucial message for the persecuted church. We are given a quite detailed description of this mighty angel and all the attributes are often applied to God in Scripture. This has led some people to speculate that this mighty angel is in fact Christ. I disagree for three reasons. In Revelation Christ is never spoken of as an angel, not even as the angel of the Lord. This angel is no where worshipped as divine, as Christ is in Revelation. Thirdly, in verse 6 this angel takes an oath - something that Christ would neither do nor need to do. So this is one of God’s mighty angels who descends from the intimate presence of God with an important revelation for John and the persecuted church.
However, before we move on let us look briefly at the description we are given of this angel.
Wrapped in a cloud - Psalm 104.3 tells us that God makes the clouds His chariots and often in the OT His presence is hidden from people by cloud. The Tabernacle was covered with the glory of God in a cloud as was the Temple. This angel comes clothed with the majesty of God’s court.
Rainbow on his head - in Ezekiel 1.28 we read that a rainbow is part of the glory of the throne of God. It also reminds us of the covenant God made with Noah never again to destroy the earth with a flood - but judgment is coming and it reminds us that God is faithful to His promises.
Angel’s face shone like the sun - an echo of the Transfiguration and of Moses’ face, which he had to veil, after being in the holy presence of God.
Legs like pillars of fire - Exodus 13.12-21 we are told the Lord God Himself walked in the fiery cloudy pillar in the wilderness with His people as they journeyed to the Promised Land.
Verse 2 - the angel has a little scroll in his hand - it is unrolled and open, unlike the scroll we have met before in 5/3-4, which no man could open. The word used for open is in the perfect participle which means that it is permanently open. It is not concealed nor is it likely to be.