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I took the little scroll out of the hand of the angel

and ate it;

my mouth it was as sweet as honey,

but when I had eaten it my stomach was made bitter.


I took the short message from the hand of the messenger

and I learned it so completely that the message and I became one;

when I read the message the first time I liked what I read,

but as I studied it in depth and came to fully understand its implications, it troubled me.

Sweet in the Mouth but Bitter in the Stomach

To eat a scroll meant to take in the message and know it completely, to own the message, to make it fully yours.

The eating of this small scroll was an affirmation of John’s call to prophetic ministry and it resembles the call of Ezekiel in EZ 2:8 – 3:3. The fact that it was both sweet and bitter means that John would find in it the encouragement of eternal truth, and yet the threat of persecution and martyrdom remained. He was being reminded that victory is through the cross. The affirmation of his calling is spelled out clearly in 10:11 right after he eats the scroll, when he is told, “It is proper and necessary for you to prophesy again concerning many people groups, nations, language groups and their respective leaders.” Even though he was exiled on the isle of Patmos, his ministry was not finished and his influence was not removed. He should continue prophesying without fear of what will come. Notice the global scope of John’s calling. Numerous times in Revelation we see the message going to all nations so that all peoples will have the opportunity to repent.

The affirmation of John’s calling is included for all of us to read because, on a secondary level, it was as an encouragement (something sweet) to those suffering persecution and strong opposition, even though it did not promise to make suffering easier, and it did not take away the suffering (the bitterness). Life would still be hard for believers in a hostile world. They were just as likely to face death. But the power of God is the power that is at work in us and through us to bring about God’s purposes and God’s glory.

In 2015, and for some time after that, ISIS was releasing videos on a regular basis of their brutal slaying of Christians in the Middle East. I noticed though, that the Christians all died with dignity, with calm assurance, with total trust in God, freed from hatred of their slayers. In contrast I noticed the members of ISIS had their faces covered. They desperately wanted the attention of the world, but they are ashamed or afraid to show their identity.