When one decides to teach on an entire book of Scripture, there is a tension that exists between covering every single word and picking out key passages and elaborating on them. Today’s teaching is a place of tension. Do I pick the first verses of chapter ten apart, or do I offer a 30,000 foot view of them? Originally, I thought it would be the 30,000 foot view, but then as I read commentaries on the first four verses I decided it would be thought-provoking and instructive to offer opposing points of view on one portion of the verses and let you decide for yourself what they mean.
I want to begin, however, with a disclaimer. God tells us exactly what He wants us to know and not one more tidbit of information. So, when we come to a passage that does not give us all the info we would like to know, we must trust that: a) God knows and chose not to reveal, b) it likely is not crucial that we know, and c) we just need to trust God’s sovereignty in the whole thing.
So, let’s take a look at the first three and a half verses of Revelation 10. Be sure to download and print the drawing of this chapter for your study time
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.
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,
3 and called out with a loud voice, like a lion roaring.
So, the issue on the table is concerning the identity of this ‘mighty angel’. Is he simply that, an angel, or is he an appearing of Jesus Christ to John? I will go ahead and tell you that commentators (that I highly respect) fall out on both sides of this question. Let’s consider the arguments for both answers.
The Angel is, well, an Angel
Dr. Paige Patterson, writing for The New American Commentary/Revelation, admits it is impossible to make an absolute identification. His personal preference is that ‘since the appearance of the Lord elsewhere in the book is largely undebatable….this angel is one of great prestige and authority. That he is called an angel is not determinative one way or another but must favor the view that this is not the Christ.”
Commentator John MacArthur offers several factors that argue against this angel being Jesus:
- The Greek word translated ‘another’ early in verse 1 is allos, which means another of the same kind, likely saying that this strong angel is an angel like the ones seen in previous passages, just stronger.
- Anytime Jesus appears in Revelation, John the Revelator gives Him a clear and unmistakable title, i.e. ‘Faithful Witness (1:5), the Amen (3:14), Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David (5:5), the Lamb (6:1, 16; 7:17; 8:1), etc.
- Other STRONG ANGELS who are clearly not Christ appear in Revelation (5:2 and 18:21).
- MacArthur believes that it is ‘inconceivable that Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity, could make the oath that this angel makes in verses 5 and 6. (stay tuned for next week)
- This angel came down out of heaven to earth. If this is Christ, this would add another coming of Christ to earth that is not foretold in Scripture and that does not mesh with the biblical descriptions of the Second Coming (cf. Matt 24:30; 25:31; 2 Thess 1:7-8).
Good arguments from both scholars for this angel being just that…an angel.
The Strong Angel is Jesus
Dr. Warren Wiersbe offers some compelling characteristics of this angel that are like the Lord Jesus Christ.
- He is Strong
- The last time we saw a rainbow it was around the throne of God in Chapter 4. Now it is a crown on the head of this messenger perhaps signifying that he has been given authority by God.
- Clouds – Jesus ascended to heaven in the clouds and He will return just as He left.
- The angel’s face shines ‘as the sun’, corresponding to the description of Jesus in Revelation 1:16.
- The description of the angel’s feet corresponds to the description of Jesus’ feet in Revelation 1:15.
- The voice like a lion reminds us that Jesus is described as the Lion of the Tribe of Judah.
- In the Old Testament, Jesus appeared several times and was called ‘the Angel of the Lord. (Exodus 3:2; Judges 2:4; 6:11-12, 21-22; 2 Samuel 24:16)
- The book in his hand. We learned in Revelation 5:5 that Jesus was the only one worthy to take the scroll and open it. It might be extrapolated that Jesus is the only One worthy to give His servant John the revelation.
- The angel’s stance is one of a victor or conqueror who is taking possession of the territory he has conquered. Only Jesus holds the title deed to earth, sea, and sky.
Compelling arguments on both sides, wouldn’t you say? I have to say that my opinion, for whatever it is worth, is that this being is simply an angel and not Jesus.
What is your opinion? Angel? Jesus Christ?
I’ll see you next week.
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I know all this study in the book of Revelation can be unsettling at times. The good news is that WE WIN and there is always encouragement for your heart from Scripture….even in Revelation. Perhaps you are looking for a bit of encouragement today. I’d love to share a little devotion book I wrote with you. It is called When Words Won’t Come.