v.8-10 Then the voice which I heard from heaven spoke to me again and said, “Go, take the little book which is open in the hand of the angel who stands on the sea and on the earth.” And I went to the angel and said to Him, “Give me the little book.” And He said to me, “Take and eat it; and it will make your stomach bitter, but it will be as sweet as honey in your mouth.” And I took the little book out of the angel’s hand and ate it, and it was as sweet as honey in my mouth. But when I had eaten it, my stomach became bitter.
It’s unlikely that John virtually ate the book, and should instead be considered a characterization more in keeping to that of the prophet Jeremiah who said, “Your words were found, and I ate them” (Jer.15:16). Or those of the Psalmist who wrote, “How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Ps.119:103).
Okay, but why is John commanded to eat the book, and what book does John eat?
The command is most similar to that given years earlier to the prophet Ezekiel who also was instructed to eat a scroll (see—Ez.3:1-3). And from his account, we can discover the purpose. For God told him “Son of man, receive into your heart all My words that I speak to you, and hear with your ears. And go, get to the captives, to the children of your people, and speak to them and tell them…” (Ez.3:10-11). In other words, Ezekiel needed to digest fully the words of the book into his heart so he could later testify to it. This is precisely what John does with this Revelation.
Regarding the book John is commanded to eat. Some commentators believe that it’s this Book of Revelation, concluding strongly that this passage refers to a book, not a scroll, and therefore cannot be the self-same scroll taken to be the title deed to the earth referred to earlier (see—Chapter 5). But I disagree. In Ezekiel’s case, he ate a “scroll of a book” (Ez.2:9); suggesting at least, that a book and a scroll need not be mutually exclusive. Moreover, the issue concerns the words of God written on the document, not the document itself. And though it’s true that the Revelation is the Word of God, it seems unlikely that John would be commanded to digest it before its completion.
Therefore, I hold to the opinion that the “book” John is instructed to digest fully into his heart is the title deed to the earth. And here’s a suggestion why John finds it both sweet and bitter. First, there was the “sweet” assurance evidenced by the “unsealed” book that God had redeemed the land and therefore would fulfill His promises to restore Israel spiritually (Hos.14:4-7). Secondly, the knowledge that the Nation must endure the holy fire of God’s purging before it would receive her Messiah, in what is called “the time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jer.30:7), was “bitter”.
v.11 And He said to me, “You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, tongues, and kings.”
These final words simply tell John that there’s more to come. That the Revelation is not yet complete, and that John must record even more about many peoples, nations, tongues, and kings not yet shown to him.
Beginning with the next chapter we’ll see this scripture fulfilled. For John is about to be shown in closer detail the specific persons and nations that play a key role in the Tribulation.