John’s encounter with the strong angel from heaven is described with a chiasm, and that structure helps solve a puzzle in the passage:
a. Strong angel descends from heaven and straddles land and sea, 10:1-2.
b. He cries and thunder speaks; what the thunder says is sealed, 10:3-4.
c. Oath of the angel, 10:5-7.
b’. John eats the book, 10:8-10.
a’. John is to prophesy to peoples and nations, 10:11.
The a/a’ aren’t directly connected, but we can recognize a link when we recall the symbolics of land and sea in the Bible. Gentiles are sea creatures, Israelites are land creatures. The angel straddles the two, bringing a book with a message to Jew and Gentile. After eating that book, John becomes a prophet to the nations, especially to the sea-dwellers in every people, nation, tongue, along with their kings” (v. 11).
The puzzle occurs in b/b’ sections: What did the thunder say that was sealed up? Many have concluded that we will never know, but the structure suggests otherwise. The thunders speak, and John begins to write. Understandable, since that’s what he’s been doing. But here he moves to a new phase. He won’t right anymore. Instead, he will eat and speak. “What the thunder said” is found in the words John speaks in the next several chapters of Revelation. For the first time in the history of prophecy, a prophet speaks out a sealed book.
At the center is a summary of the book’s contents: The mystery of God will be finished. There have been partial judgments galore in the first 9 chapters of Revelation. Now the climactic judgment comes, a slaughter of saints, an answer to the prayers of the martyrs of the fifth seal, which is the completion of the mystery of God because it issues in the final judgment against the harlot and the beasts. The sealed mystery is spoken out, not by the angel but by the prophet who eats the book.