This all begins with a very strange angel. “And I saw another mighty angel come down from heaven, clothed with a cloud: and a rainbow was upon his head, and his face was as it were the sun, and his feet as pillars of fire….” We immediately run into controversy over the identity of this angel. There is one group that sees the angel as a theophany, an appearance of Christ. To this point it is surmised that the angel is presented here matches in some parts the description of Christ in the first chapter; instead of the feet of brass the angel has feet as pillars of fire, instead of eyes of fire the angel has a face as it was the sun, and so on. Christ often made appearances in the Old Testament as the angel of the Lord. As the angel of the Lord He was the messenger of the covenant (Mal. 3:1). He speaks for God in a way that created angels do not being one with the nature of God and therefore was worshipped as God. Tim LaHaye taught that since Christ took on flesh no other appearances as an angel were made by the Son of God. Is that true? The Son of God is still infinite even though in the terms of the gospel He is forever identified with human nature. He is still infinite in knowledge (omniscient), infinite in time (eternal), and therefore is still in the sense of His divinity infinite in space (omnipresent). He proclaimed (as it is said in our Authorized Version) that he was in Heaven while he was on earth (John 3:13). There does (especially in the Authorized Version) appears to be angelic appearances that are divine speaking with their own authority in the New Testament (Matt. 1:20, 2:13, 19, 28:2, Luke 2:9, Acts 5:19, 8:26, 12:7). So it is entirely possible that the people who say that the angel here is the Son of God. But, that begs the question of whether it is necessary to the text to read it so. Our text says that it was “another mighty angel….” Mighty angels accompany Christ at his coming but are not synonymous with Him (II Thess. 1:7). The question is then what the term “another” is in reference to. Whatever it refers to will reveal the nature are this being. There is a “strong” angel which introduces Christ in the fifth chapter (5:2). There was a specific angel which came down to seal the Israelites prior to the sounding of the trumpets (7:2). There was “another angel” which cast the incense with the fire of the altar and the prayers of the saints down to the earth (8:2). Besides the angels that sounded the trumpets, there was an angel that flew in the heavens decaling the woe of the last trumpets to the earth (8:13). Then in the last chapter there was the angel of the bottomless pit (9:11) and the four angels bound in the Euphrates (9:14) (neither of which could be synonymous with the angel of our text which came down from heaven).
So it makes sense to see the mighty angel of our text as one of the same ministering spirits and not as Christ Himself. By the term “another” we can devise that this mighty angel is of the same nature of the angels that we read about in the chapters proceeding our text (4:1 to present text). If there are correlations to the description of Christ we could interpret the angel as carrying the authority of Christ in that which it is about to do. There is a hierarchy of angelic beings. This angel is said to be a might angel. This may correspond to the class of angelic beings called powers (Col. 2:10). The description of this angel is unique. More important than the status of the angel is the origin of the angel. It came down from heaven. It was not unleashed from Hell as the angels that were before it. This is the answer of heaven from the very throne of God.
The angel is described in a six-fold manner: the body, the head, the face, the feet, the hand, and the voice. First, consider the body of the angel. It is “clothed with a cloud….”). The first mention of cloud in the Bible is the cloud in which the rainbow was set after the flood which represented the covenant of God with mankind. The connection with the rainbow in our text is not lost here as well (Gen. 9:13). From that point the cloud speaks of the presence of God (Ex. 13:22, 16:10, 40:35, Lev. 16:2, Num. 12:5, Matt. 17:5). Everything about the cloud is of God. God creates the cloud, numbers the clouds, and empties the cloud where He wills (Job 38:37). Through the clouds God speaks and we learn of His faithfulness and His judgment. So we can say first about this angel that it was clothed with the presence and purpose of God.
Secondly, the angel had “rainbow was upon his head….” This is simple enough. This is the symbol of God’s covenant. So this angel is clothed with God’s presence and crowned with God’s truth.
Thirdly, the angel said that his “face was as it were the sun….” This is the part that makes the case that the angel is Christ. When the Son of God was transfigured his face shone as the sun (Matt. 17:2). It is hard to simply dismiss this fact. This angel not only comes with presence of God but comes with the presence of Christ. Just as the face of Noah shone because he was in the presence of God so the face of this angel shone because he was in the presence of the Father and the Son. The sun is also representative of the created glory.
Fourthly, consider the angel’s feet. The text says that “his feet as pillars of fire… and he set his right foot upon the sea, and his left foot on the earth….” The important point about the feet was where they were headed. The feet are blessed that carry the gospel of peace; shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace. These feet are blessed because they carry the fire of God’s judgment. And where are they carrying the judgment of God to? They are carrying it to the whole of the globe. The left foot was planted on the earth and the right foot was on the sea. The fire of God’s judgment is now here.
Fifthly, consider the angel’s hand. Our text says that “he had in his hand a little book open….” We will be talking a great amount about this book so let us start with the observation that the hand carried a book that was open. Sanballat sent an open letter of accusations to Nehemiah for all of Jerusalem to read; not just Nehemiah (Neh. 6:5). This is God’s open declaration of God’s judgment. His judgment is presently hidden but then it will be fully known of all men. God will not hide his intentions and degrees to the wicked world. The hand of this angel carries an open letter to the ungodly world. Now, what is this “little book?” The little book as we proceed in the chapter has special meaning for John and his further preaching to the nations. The adjective little tells us that this is not the fullness of God’s degrees but is related only to a small part of it. Particularly it regarding the end for that is what the message of the book is leading to. Going back to the 24th chapter of Matthew (which correlates to the book of Revelation) we find John among the other apostles asked when the end shall be (Matt. 24:3). That was the question that Christ began to answer there. But it would be John that would more fully receive from Christ a description of the end. It is not beyond the pale to see the little book here as the book of Revelation itself; the whole of the revelation that John would receive into himself and preach to the nations of the world at the end of his life. That is what is in the hand of the angel.
Lastly, consider the angel’s voice. The angel “cried with a loud voice, as when a lion roareth: and when he had cried, seven thunders uttered their voices. And when the seven thunders had uttered their voices, I was about to write: and I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Seal up those things which the seven thunders uttered, and write them not.” The mighty angel cried with a loud voice. The voice is as a lion roaring. The lion roars to show its mastery. The angel with the authority of God has touched down on the earth and roared. After the cry of the angel, seven thunders uttered their voice. The thunder is the Lord’s work (II Sam. 22:14, Job 37:1-5, 40:9). In fact, it is the voice of the Father as heard by men: “Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again. The people therefore, that stood by, and heard it, said that it thundered: others said, An angel spake to him” (John 12:28,29). There were seven thunders. These thunders were mysterious. They show us that even though much was reveal to John somethings are still not written and still not know. There are still secret things which belong to the Lord alone and we can only know what He has chosen to give us in His book (Deut. 29:29). God directed John to seal up those things that were thundered. The ungodly men of the earth will one day hear those things but it is not to be known right now what those things are. We can surmise that it is the sound of judgment (complete judgment since it is accompanied by the number seven). This will be a catalyst for man completely and finally siding with antichrist and turning their eyes toward the destruction of Israel. It will result in Satan coming down to the earth knowing that his time is short and numbered (see chapter 12). Some, with which I agree, have correlated with the seven voices of God that thundered in the 29th Psalm. That psalm directs mankind to give the glory due to the name of God and declares Him to be King and promises strength and peace to His people. In that psalm are seven voices as follows: “The voice of the Lord is upon the waters: the God of glory thundereth: the Lord is upon many waters. The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is full of majesty. The voice of the Lord breaketh the cedars; yea, the Lord breaketh the cedars of Lebanon. He maketh them also to skip like a calf; Lebanon and Sirion like a young unicorn. The voice of the Lord divideth the flames of fire. The voice of the Lord shaketh the wilderness; the Lord shaketh the wilderness of Kadesh. The voice of the Lord maketh the hinds to calve, and discovereth the forests: and in his temple doth every one speak of his glory.” That Psalm is about Christ, who is the voice of the Lord (and synonymous with the LORD Himself – He is the Word of God who was with God and was God), and His revelation to the world.
So let us, before we move on, return to the question of the mighty angel. We have seen the angel described. To see the significance of this angel and its appearance at this point in this book we need to turn to the book of Daniel. In Daniel 10 there is a description of an angel that appeared when Daniel was troubled about the times of Israel: “Then I lifted up mine eyes, and looked, and behold a certain man clothed in linen, whose loins were girded with fine gold of Uphaz: His body also was like the beryl, and his face as the appearance of lightning, and his eyes as lamps of fire, and his arms and his feet like in colour to polished brass, and the voice of his words like the voice of a multitude (Daniel 10:5, 6). Then again in the 12th chapter of Daniel was an angel clothed in linen. He was standing upon the waters announcing the accomplishing of the scattering of the holy people (Israel) by AntiChrist and the finishing of all things; including the abomination of desolation (Dan. 12:5-7, 10-12). That is the significance of this angel. Jesus said the end would be known by the abomination of desolation and then the people in Jerusalem will need to flee. This angel is here to announce the end and what proceeds the persecution foretold by Daniel. The thunders no doubt were meant to be a comfort to Israel in the approaching end but a fearful thing to a world bent toward antichrist.