Rev. 10:9-10 … “So I went to the angel, telling him to give me the little book. And he said to me, ‘Take it and eat it; it will make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be sweet as honey.’ I took the little book out of the angel’s hand and ate it, and in my mouth it was sweet as honey; and when I had eaten it, my stomach was made bitter.”
We must remember that John received the material in the book of Revelation in a series of visions. Notice here in 10:1 that the chapter begins, “(And) I saw.” Then we must recognize that things can happen in visions that would not be likely to happen in our normal physical world. Chapter 10 is relating a vision that John saw, and in this vision something occurred that would be highly extraordinary in common experience. There descended from heaven a “strong angel” clothed in a cloud, crowned with a rainbow, radiant as the sun, and his feet (and legs) like pillars of fire. In his hand was a little book open. This book appears to signify God’s word, the Bible, for as soon as John had “eaten” it, he was commanded to “prophesy again concerning many peoples and nations and tongues and kings,” (v.11).
In the Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13 Jesus said that “the one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away,” (vs. 20-21). The idea presented here by Jesus and by John’s experience in the vision in “eating” the “little book” are essentially the same. John’s initial experience with this book was the sweet taste of honey, whereas the hearer described by Jesus first experienced joy. The after effects for John was a bitter stomach, and for the hearer in Jesus’ parable it was being “offended” when tribulation and persecution followed his acceptance of the word.
The message of the Bible is indeed beautiful and most appealing. The reader can lose himself in its glorious presentation, and the teacher can become enthralled in explaining its wonderful meaning and applications. The pleasantness of God’s word is often emphasized and sometimes again even compared to honey. For example, “How sweet are Your words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Psa. 119:103). But there is a lot more to using the Bible than the joy of reading and teaching it. One must also let it transform his life from being a servant of sin to being a servant of righteousness. And when one uses the Bible to produce this change, he incurs the enmity and opposition of the community of sinners from which he has been separated. Jesus forewarns those who will submit to Him as their Lord and accept His doctrine as their rule of life: “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world … (therefore) the world hates you. … If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you,” (Jno. 15:18-20).
Those who are attracted to the Bible by the beauty and wonderful hope of its message, and who experience profound joy as they receive it, must realize that it will eventually bring upon them hostility from the world which is in rebellion against God. God’s word is a light from heaven that shines into the world, but “everyone who does evil hates the Light” because it exposes the evil in their way of life, (Jno. 3:19-20). Persecution and tribulation will cause bitterness in the life of the person who holds on to his faith in the Bible and defends his loyalty to it. But he must never forsake it to remove the bitterness! If he endures unto the end, the Lord will reward him abundantly in the next life, where His word is unopposed because the devil and all his advocates have been eternally banished into hell.