The Little Book Open? The Rainbow Angel? -|- Revelation 10

Verse 1

And I saw another strong angel coming down out of heaven, arrayed with a cloud; and the 🌈 rainbow was upon his head, and his face was as 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 upon the earth; and he cried with a great voice, as a lion roareth: and when he cried, the seven thunders uttered their voices. And when the seven thunders uttered their voices , I was about to write: and I heard a voice from heaven saying, Seal up the things which the seven thunders uttered, and write them not. And the angel that I saw standing upon the sea and upon the earth lifted up his right hand to heaven, and sware by him that liveth for ever and ever, who created the heaven and the things that are therein, and the earth and the things that are therein, and the sea and the things that are therein, that there shall be delay no longer: but in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, then is finished the mystery of God, according to the good tidings which he declared to his servants the prophets. And the voice which I heard from heaven, I heard it again speaking with me, and saying, Go, take the book which is open in the hand of the angel that standeth upon the sea and upon the earth. And I went unto the angel, saying unto him that he should give me the little book. And he saith unto me, Take it, and eat it up; and it shall make thy belly bitter, but in thy mouth it shall be 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 when I had eaten it, my belly was made bitter. And they say unto me, Thou must prophesy again over many peoples and nations and tongues and kings.
Revelation 10 ASV

What does it mean?


The big thing in this chapter is “the little book open,” which beyond any reasonable doubt is the New Testament.

Of all the books ever heard of in the history of the world, there is only one small book continuing to remain open in spite of the most vigorous efforts of hell and the devil to close it, and deserving to receive the supernatural guardianship of one of God’s most mighty and glorious angels. If there is even another candidate for such a unique status, this writer has never heard of it.

It is nothing short of phenomenal that most of the commentators on Revelation appear to be blind to the glorious vision of “the little book open.” Many refer to this chapter as a consolatory vision for “the church,” despite the church’s not even being mentioned in the whole chapter; whereas, the little book or its equivalent pronoun occurs eleven times in as many verses!

What is the true significance of this?

The Lord, through John, had just revealed the final impenitence and violent rebellion of the human race against God as history moves toward the terminal of the final judgment; and the persecuted and suffering Christians who first received this prophecy would naturally have been concerned with the question of what about the preaching of the word of God? especially of the New Testament, during such events, which, for all that they certainly knew were even then descending upon them. This chapter addresses that question. It is the apocalyptic counterpart of such great promises of the Lord Jesus Christ as these:

Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my word shall not pass away (Matthew 24:35).

The gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world (Mark 14:9).

This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a testimony unto all nations; and then shall the end come (Matthew 24:14).

The word that I spake, the same shall judge him (man) in the last day (John 12:48).

Repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name unto all nations, beginning from Jerusalem (Luke 24:47).

Ye shall be my witnesses … to the uttermost part of the earth (Acts 1:8)

All history is the record of the fulfillment of these blessed promises of the Lord.

These promises are found in the first five books of the New Testament, and the chapter before us is the inspired revelation of the reason why this fulfillment was possible. It shows that the holy providence of the Lord Jesus Christ which was pledged to the church in the promise of his being with them “always, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:18-20), also includes the exercise of that same providence in the preservation of the sacred New Testament, which is the unique origin, nourishment, and vitality of the church. Christ’s promise to be with his church necessarily includes also his promise of being with the New Testament, without which the church could not possibly exist. This chapter makes that truth plain.

Right here is the reason why vicious and unbelieving scholars, devoting their total lives to the purpose of downgrading or destroying the New Testament, are foreordained to frustration and defeat.

Let them look up from their mythology, folklore, Armenian and Mandaean eschatology, Babylonian creation stories, and the poetry and philosophy of pagan literature; let them desist from their silly word-counting games, their bizarre subjective guesses, and all their other devices, and let them behold the Rainbow Angel with the New Testament open in his hand!

Open forever more, until day breaks and shadows flee! Will the enemies of the New Testament prevail? Ask the Rainbow Angel. Consult this chapter.

This chapter must not be understood as sequential chronologically to the six trumpets, but rather as a consolatory vision of the way it is with God’s word throughout the entire Christian dispensation.

Nothing of any greater relevance or significance for our own times, and for all times, appears elsewhere in this prophecy.

Despite this, the reading of the indexes of the whole period of writings by the Ante-Nicene authors reveals only two references to this chapter; and both of them omit any reference to “the little book open.” Half a hundred volumes were searched with regard to comment on this chapter; and only the following authors got the point about this little book:

The little book is the word of God, his gospel in which the mystery of salvation is set forth.

It is the word of God which is seen in the hands of this colossal figure (the Rainbow Angel).[2]

The little book contains the gospel of God’s mercy.[3]

The little book has reference to the gospel.[4]

The little book open is that gospel which is the sword of the Spirit, the weapon of the church, the word of God open to all, hidden only to those whom the god of this world has blinded.[5]

Bede unequivocally identified the little book as the New Testament.[6]

Origen, quoted in Speaker’s Commentary, identified it as the book of Scripture.[7]

Davis identified it as the book that is so little that it can be carried in one’s vest pocket and so cheap that it can be bought for a few pennies.[8]

Speck saw it as the Bible.[9]

Gaebelein understood it to mean the Old Testament.[10]

The main point of the open booklet is the open Word or Gospel.[11]

We are thankful for these but distressed that so many miss this, usually identifying the little book as some portion of this prophecy, failing to see that one part of God’s word could not possibly be more important than the rest of it. Thus, no portion of the New Testament could be elevated, as in the hand of this mighty angel, to a status higher than that pertaining to all of it. It is inconceivable that a glorious angel of Almighty God would be commissioned to look after a few passages in Revelation, as distinguished from the rest of the New Testament. We now turn to the text itself.

And I saw another strong angel coming down out of heaven, arrayed with a cloud; and the rainbow was upon his head, and his face was as the sun, and his feet as pillars of fire; (Revelation 10:1)

I saw another strong angel … Some take this being to be Christ himself;

but, as Earle wrote, “It is generally agreed that another mighty angel would not refer to the Son of God.”[12]

Still it is true that this angel’s description resembles that of the glorified Christ (Revelation 1:16). Some have identified this angel as Gabriel,[13]

or Martin Luther;[14] but it is our view that the rank and importance of this celestial being is to be stressed rather than his personal identity, which is not given. “Of all the angels who inhabit the pages of John’s book, only three are called mighty.[15]

Coming down out of heaven …

“This event is not to be interpreted as an extension of the sixth trumpet-vision which was introduced in Revelation 9:13.”[16] “The very nature of the last two verses of the preceding chapter shows that the account reaches its conclusion there.”[17]

This is the beginning of a new vision of God’s providential guardianship of the word of God, especially the New Testament, throughout this entire dispensation of the grace of God. It will be noted that John here appears to be on earth, contrasting with other occasions in Revelation when he was in heaven. “This illustrates the fluidity of apocalyptic thought; one can move from heaven to earth in vision without explanation.”[18]

Cloud … rainbow, … “

This is a description of the great angel emphasizing his rank and glory. Lenski called him “The Rainbow Angel.”[19]

[1] William Hendriksen, More than Conquerors (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1956), p. 151.

[2] Leon Morris, Tyndale Commentaries, Vol. 20, The Revelation of St. John (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1969), p. 138.

[3] G. B. Caird, The Revelation of St. John the Divine (New York: Harper and Row, 1966), p. 126.

[4] R. H. Banowsky, The Revelation of the Holy City (Fort Worth, Texas: J. E. Snelson Printing Company, 1967), p. 48.

[5] W. Boyd Carpenter, Ellicott’s Bible Commentary, Vol. VIII (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1959), p. 582.

[6] A. Plummer, The Pulpit Commentary, Vol. 22, Revelation (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1950), p. 273.

[7] Ibid.

[8] W. M. Davis, Studies in Revelation (Austin, Texas: Firm Foundation Publishing House, n.d.), p. 25.

[9] Willie Wallace Speck, The Triumph of Faith (San Marcos, Texas: Mrs. H. E. Speck, 1958), p. 117.

[10] Arno C. Gaebelein, The Revelation (Neptune, New Jersey: Loizeaux Brothers, 1961), p. 67.

[11] R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. John’s Revelation (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Augsburg Publishing House, 1943), p. 322.

[12] Ralph Earle, Beacon Bible Commentary, Vol. 10 (Kansas City: Beacon Hill Press, 1967), p. 559.

[13] Robert H. Mounce, Commentary on the New Testament, Revelation (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1977), p. 207.

[14] John T. Hinds, A Commentary on the Book of Revelation (Nashville: The Gospel Advocate Company, 1962), p. 146.

[15] G. B. Caird, op. cit., p. 125.

[16] Isbon T. Beckwith, The Apocalypse of John (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1919), p. 573.

[17] Ibid.

[18] George Eldon Ladd, A Commentary on the Revelation of John (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1972), p. 141.

[19] R. C. H. Lenski, op. cit., p. 310.

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