10:1-7 THE SEVEN THUNDERS
“And I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven, clothed with a cloud, and a rainbow was on his head, and his face was like 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 on the sea and his left foot on the earth, and cried out with a loud voice, as when a lion roars. And when he had cried out, 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 to me, ‘Seal up those things which the seven thunders uttered, and do not write them.’ (Revelation 10:1-4).
Chapters 8 and 9 were fairly literal descriptions of a devastating war at the end of time. Chapter 10 makes a major shift. Although still a part of the seven trumpets, the focus now is upon what God and His people are doing during the Satan-inspired war, and this is presented using highly symbolic language.
John saw “another angel” who came down from heaven, holding a little book in his hand. When he spoke it sounded like a lion roaring, and at the same time “seven thunders uttered their voices.” The messages of the seven thunders seem at first glance to be frustrating. Although they are so important that they were delivered in great glory and majesty, thundered with the voice of God from heaven, John was told, “seal up the things which the seven thunders uttered, and do not write them,” so we do not have the opportunity to know what the messages said, let alone the meaning of their messages.
Actually, this very fact gives a clue to their content. Sealed messages are generally prophetic. For example, Daniel was told to “seal up the vision” of the 2300 days “for it refers to many days in the future” (Daniel 8:26). Later, when he was given a vision including information about the “time of trouble” when “your people shall be delivered” and “many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake,” he was told, “shut up the words and seal the book until the time of the end” (Daniel 12:1-4). The angel gave Daniel time periods for the last day events (“a time, times and half a time”, “one thousand two hundred and ninety days…one thousand three hundred and thirty-five days” Daniel 12:7,11,12) but he did not explain their significance. Daniel kept asking about these end-time prophecies and the angel finally told him, “Go your way, Daniel, for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end” (Daniel 12:9).
Jesus also made it clear that the people of His day were not to know the details of the end of time. When He was about to ascend to heaven the last thing his disciples wanted to know was when he would establish His kingdom. “And he said to them, ‘It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority” (Acts 1:7).
Jesus insisted that no one knows the day and hour of His coming, only the Father (Matthew 24:36, Mark 13:32). But at the same time He gave a list of signs as well as time prophecies so that His followers could know when the time was near. We can conclude that the sealed messages of the seven thunders have to do with the timing, the events, the signs, and the judgments leading up to the return of Christ.
This interpretation is supported by the fact that the mighty angel “cried with a loud voice, as when a lion roars.” The prophet Amos links prophecies that reveal the future with the roaring of a lion—“Surely the Lord God does nothing, unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets. A lion has roared! Who will not fear? The Lord God has spoken! Who can but prophesy?” (Amos 3:7,8). Moreover, these messages are called “seven thunders.” Seven refers to fullness and completeness. “Thundering” in Revelation is associated with the pouring out of executive judgments (see 4: Two Kinds of Judgments). This would suggest that the messages of the seven thunders contain information about the fullness of the judgments to come, culminating with the return of Christ.
But the most conclusive evidence that the messages of the seven thunders have to do with the end-time prophecies comes from the parallel passage in Daniel, which shows that information about the events of the last days was to be sealed, but would be revealed and understood at the end of time.