(1) Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven, wrapped in a cloud, with a rainbow over his head, and his face was like the sun, and his legs like pillars of fire.
This verse begins the interlude between the sixth and seventh trumpets. It is a preparatory section for the coming of the seventh trumpet, as well as the rest of the book of Revelation. John sees “another” angel which kicks off this section. He describes the angel as a “mighty angel.” Not that this angel is mightier than the other angels which John has seen, for he specifically said, “I saw another mighty angel.” The depiction of this angel would be different than others before it (for the purposes of the vision), but it is no different in mightiness. I feel that some commentators have been presumptuous when interpreting this angel to be Jesus. This makes for an awkward interpretation and disrupts the harmony of the rest of the scriptures. Jesus is not an angel, he is God. Angels are ministers while Jesus is master. Angels are messengers of the word while Jesus is the Word.
“Coming down from heaven, wrapped in a cloud, with a rainbow over his head, and his face was like the sun.” Notice the picture that John paints for us. He sees the descent of the angel from the heavens. The angel is surrounded by the clouds of heaven and a rainbow is seen above his head. The angels face, according to John, looked “like the sun.” John has given us all the parts of a full scene. We see the heavens and the clouds, with a rainbow above and the sun peaking over the clouds. This beautiful imagery which embodies the mighty angel is a display of an important truth, that God keeps his covenants. Since the days of Noah, the rainbow is a witness that God keeps his covenants (Genesis 9:13, 16). This scene which John sees is not so different from the spectacular view we after it rains. God always makes it look so beautiful for us, because the message of it all is beautiful: God is faithful to his word. To the faithful, this is a lovely theme; but to the wicked this is a very bitter theme. As we will see in verse seven, the intent of this angel is to announce that God is faithful to the covenants which he has made with men, and will bring his promises to complete fulfillment.
“His legs like pillars of fire.” This is another feature attached to the stormy scene. The body of the angel is surrounded by clouds, and his legs appear below the clouds. His legs are likened to two pillars of fire. This immediately reminds me of the pillar of fire which the Lord used to lead the Israelites by night through the wilderness. In the wilderness, it was also an angel with embodied the pillar of fire: “Behold, I send an angel before you to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place that I have prepared” (Exodus 23:20). It is important to see what God instructed concerning the Israelites following the angel in the wilderness: “Pay careful attention to him and obey his voice; do not rebel against him, for he will not pardon your transgression, for my name is in him” (Exodus 23:21). Back in Revelation, we see this angel, and like the days of the exodus, this angel “will not pardon” the transgressions of the people. So we see that this is a vision of covenantal concepts.
(2) He had a little scroll open in his hand. And he set his right foot on the sea, and his left foot on the land,
Continuing the images of God’s covenants, we now see a “little scroll” in the hand of the angel. It is a written word of God; I’m certain that it has something to do with a covenant; the previous details in verse one will not permit me to think otherwise. There are two details about this scroll: 1). It is little; and 2). It is open.
1). I believe the littleness of the scroll is in relation to the angel’s words that “there would be no more delay, but that in the days of the trumpet call to be sounded by the seventh angel, the mystery of God would be fulfilled” (v. 6-7). This scroll contains that which will soon to take place. It is about a little space of time and therefore, it is a little book. This scroll is the covenantal executions of God (Deuteronomy 28:15-68) upon the Jewish nation. This scroll is the what the book of Revelation is all about; this scroll is Revelation, or at least what is left of it.
2). The scroll being “open in his hand” means that it is not a closed book, obviously. It is not closed up and put away on the bookshelf to read for another day, it is in hand, and it is open. An opposite example to this is in Daniel 12:4, when Daniel was told to “shut up the words and seal the book, until the time of the end.” Daniel’s message was saved for later, it was nowhere near the time of its fulfillment; but the scroll in Revelation is wide open and “there would be no more delay” (v.6).
“And he set his right foot on the sea, and his left foot on the land.” He has a solid footing in both land and sea, and his purpose (which is God’s purpose), and his call of judgment (verse 3) would affect the whole world. It may be in better keeping with the signs of Revelation to interpret the land as the land of Israel (of the Jewish people) and the sea as the gentile world. The Jews who had broken the covenant were not just in the promised land anymore, but there scattered throughout the sea that is the world (Acts 2:5, 9-11); so that is one angle to consider. Also, if we peek further into Revelation, we will see that the gentiles have a part in the judgments of God too (11:2; 13:1, 7; 18:3, 9-11; 19:19-21; 20:11-15).
(3) and called out with a loud voice, like a lion roaring. When he called out, the seven thunders sounded.
Seeing how this angel is in the midst of the clouds, his loud voice has the resemblance of thunder; it resembles judgment. The rumble, John reports, is like the roar of a lion, which is another image God uses to speak of judgment (Isaiah 5:29, 31:4; Jeremiah 5:6; Hosea 11:10; Joel 3:16; Amos 1:2; Revelation 9:8, 17). When the mighty angel roars with a loud voice, there is a response of thunder in seven-fold. More thunder, more repetition of the judgment theme… it’s coming quickly. I have more comments on the seven thunders in the following verse.
(4) And when the seven thunders had sounded, I was about to write, but I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Seal up what the seven thunders have said, and do not write it down.”
This is one of the most unique and mesmerizing statements in the book. It is truly unlike every other verse; for every verse is intended to be revealing but this statement is about concealing. The most important thing to note is that this verse is supposed to be in this book of Revelation. Consider that this scene is all a vision from God to John, so it was no accident that these seven thunders made it into the vision. But why? What is the point of this if we never hear what they say? I believe that question is also the answer; the point is simply that we never hear what they say. In the midst of a book revealing what was coming soon, the voices of the seven thunders remind us that there is still so much that we don’t know; such knowledge which belongs to God. “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” (Deuteronomy 29:29). What the seven thunders said belongs to God and this verse reminds us of our place. I won’t speculate as to what they may have said, but I will state what we do know about them. First, we know that they are thunders, and thunder has symbolized judgment throughout the book (4:5; 6:1; 8:5; 11:19; 16:18; 19:6). Lastly, we know that they are seven, another figure (seen fifty-five times in this book) which speaks to the perfect fullness of God.
(5) And the angel whom I saw standing on the sea and on the land raised his right hand to heaven (6) and swore by him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and what is in it, the earth and what is in it, and the sea and what is in it, that there would be no more delay,
Back to the mighty angel, he now raises his right hand and swears by Jesus Christ. This looks like a courtroom scene. This angel has taken the witness stand against both the land and the sea, they are found guilty.
“Swore by him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and what is in it, the earth and what is in it, and the sea and what is in it.” He swore by God; and more specifically, he swore by Jesus. For it was Jesus who is ascribed as the Word which spoke the earth and heavens into existence (John 1:1-3; Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 1:8-10).
“That there would be no more delay.” The time has come for judgment to be finalized for the old covenant people. The fact that there would be “no more” delay means that there was delay. Not that this is a negative thing, it only means that God was patience with them, just as Peter pointed out: “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). The slowness of this situation has caused the souls of the saints to be a little weary (Revelation 6:10), but the length of time was a matter of God’s patience with the aim that they would reach repentance, and not perish (9:20-21).