What does Revelation 10:9 mean?John went to the mighty angel and asked for the scroll. Promptly, the mighty angel gave him the scroll and commanded him to eat it. He told John it would make his stomach bitter but it would taste as sweet as honey. It's not controversial to note that this is highly figurative language. John's actions and reactions here are meant to symbolize important spiritual ideas—not merely the idea of eating a piece of paper.
In the Old Testament the prophet Ezekiel received a command to deliver God's message to rebellious Israel (Ezekiel 2:3–4). Upon receiving this command Ezekiel saw a hand stretched out to him, and a scroll was in the hand (Ezekiel 2:9). "Eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel," the Lord said (Ezekiel 3:1). When he ate the scroll, Ezekiel found that it tasted as sweet as honey (Ezekiel 3:3), but later he experienced bitterness (Ezekiel 3:14).
God's Word contains both a sweet message and a bitter message. The prophet Jeremiah testified: "Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart" (Jeremiah 15:16). The message of reconciliation and forgiveness is sweet, but the message of condemnation is bitter. The gospel is sweet to those who embrace it, but bitter to those who reject it.
John's eating of the scroll, then, carries the same symbolism as it did for Ezekiel. John is "taking on" the message of God in order to carry it to others. This is a "sweet" experience at first, but the aftermath brings pain and heartache. Communication with God—especially in such an overt way—would certainly be uplifting. Knowing that the message is one of judgment and destruction, however, is gut-wrenching.