‘And I took the little book out of the angel’s hand, and ate it up; and it was in my mouth sweet as honey: and as soon as I had eaten it, my belly was bitter.’ — Revelation 10:10
Bittersweet is a description of something that contains a mixture of happiness and sadness, something that is both pleasant and painful. In Revelation 10, John is told to take a little open book from a mighty angel. The angel gives it to him and tells him to eat it. He does so and the book is both sweet as honey and then bitter in his belly.
After John eats the book, he is told that he must prophesy to many peoples, nations, tongues, and kings. This fact combined with similar experience with the prophets Ezekiel (Ezek 2:9-10; 3:1-4,14) and Jeremiah (Jer 15:16-18) indicated that this book is a symbol for the Word of God as it is given to men.
God’s Word is sweet. It contains promises, blessings, salvation, and reward. For the believer, the future is bright, the kingdom of Christ is coming, and heaven is home. But God’s Word is also bitter. It contains teaching on suffering and trial for the believer and great tribulation and eternal damnation for the unbeliever.
In a sense, the book of Revelation is bittersweet. It contains things that so wonderfully sweet about the plan of God and the future home of God with man. And it contains things very bitter such as the tribulation of this world, the judgment of the unrepentant, and the eternal lake of fire.
The reality of the Bible’s bittersweet message do not do away with our need to eat it. It is true and it is for all people. Let us read, hear, and take it into our lives, accepting both the sweet and the bitter.