What is the little book that John ate?


By BibleAsk Team

The little book that John ate is described in the book of Revelation, specifically in Revelation 10:8-11. This passage is part of the larger apocalyptic vision given to the Apostle John, and the symbolism of the little book has been the subject of discussion throughout Christian history. In this essay, we will explore the context and meanings of the little book that John ate.

Context of Revelation 10

The Vision of the Mighty Angel

Revelation 10 begins with John seeing a mighty angel descending from heaven, clothed with a cloud and with a rainbow over his head. The angel’s appearance is majestic and awe-inspiring, indicating his divine nature and authority.

The Little Book

Revelation 10:2 (NKJV): “He had a little book open in his hand. And he set his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land.”

The angel holds a little book that is open, symbolizing revelation or divine knowledge that is accessible to John and to humanity. The positioning of the angel’s feet on the sea and the land signifies his authority over the entire earth.

The Seven Thunders

Revelation 10:3-4 (NKJV): “He cried with a loud voice, as when a lion roars. When he cried out, seven thunders uttered their voices. Now when the seven thunders uttered their voices, I was about to write; but I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, ‘Seal up the things which the seven thunders uttered, and do not write them.'”

John hears seven thunders uttering their voices, but he is instructed not to record what they say. The content of the seven thunders remains a mystery, as it is sealed and not revealed to John or to readers of the book of Revelation.

Eating the Little Book

The Command to Eat

Revelation 10:9-10 (NKJV): “So I went to the angel and said to him, ‘Give me the little book.’ And he said to me, ‘Take and eat it; and it will make your stomach bitter, but it will be as sweet as honey in your mouth.’ Then I took the little book out of the angel’s hand and ate it, and it was as sweet as honey in my mouth. But when I had eaten it, my stomach became bitter.”

John obeys the angel’s command and takes the little book from the angel’s hand. He is instructed to eat it, and he finds that it tastes sweet like honey in his mouth. However, after eating it, his stomach becomes bitter.

The Interpretation

To identify the little book that John ate,  we need to look back at Daniel, who was instructed by the angels to “shut up the words, and seal his book, even to the time of the end” (ch. 12:4). This instruction applies particularly to the part of Daniel’s prophecies that deals with the last days (ch. 12:4), and to the time element of the 2300 days (ch. 8:14) as it relates to the preaching of the first, second, and third angels’ messages (Revelation14:6–12).

Inasmuch as the message of the present angel of Revelation deals with time, and with events at the time of the end, when the book of Daniel was to be unsealed (Daniel 12:4), it seems reasonable to conclude that the little book open in the hand of the angel was the book of Daniel. With the presentation to John of the little book open, the sealed portions of Daniel’s prophecy are revealed. The time element, pointing out the end of the 2300-day prophecy, is made clear.

Consequently, Revelation 10:9, 10 focuses upon the time when the proclamation of verses 6, 7 was made, that is, during the years 1840 to 1844. When these believers first heard the message of the imminent second coming, it was to them “sweet as honey.” But when Christ did not come as they expected, their experience was indeed bitter.

Though mistaken in expecting Christ to return in 1844, the Millerites nevertheless were led of God. Their computation of the time element in the prophecy of Daniel 8:14 was correct, but they were mistaken as to the nature of the event to take place at the end of the 2300 days. In 1844, Jesus actually started cleansing the Heavenly Sanctuary (Hebrews 8:1-5) but the Millerites mistakenly thought He was going to come again to cleanse the earthly sanctuary, which was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD. For more on the 2300 prophecy, check: https://bibleask.org/explain-daniel-chapters-8-9/

Lessons and Applications

Assimilating God’s Word

The act of eating the little book reminds believers of the importance of assimilating and internalizing God’s Word in their lives. It is not enough to merely hear or read the Word; it must be digested and absorbed into the depths of one’s being.

Sweetness and Bitterness

The contrast between the sweetness and bitterness of the little book reminds believers that the Christian life is characterized by both joy and suffering, victory and hardship. Embracing God’s Word may bring comfort and joy, but it may also involve challenges and sacrifices.

Prophetic Witness

Just as John was commissioned as a prophet through his experience of eating the little book, believers are called to prepare for the judgement and be witnesses and messengers of God’s truth in the world. Like John, they are called to proclaim God’s message of salvation and judgment to a world in need of redemption.

Submission to God’s Will

John’s obedience in eating the little book serves as an example of submission to God’s will, even when it involves difficulties or uncertainties. Believers are called to trust in God’s wisdom and sovereignty, knowing that His purposes will ultimately prevail.


The little book that John ate in Revelation 10 is a symbolic representation of divine revelation, prophetic commission, and personal communion with God. It is a revelation to what took place in 1844 at the great Millerite disappointment. This is a reminder for the believers today to live in a state of spiritual readiness by God’s grace during the investigative judgement that is taking place in the heavenly sanctuary.

Check out our Bible Answers page for more information on a variety of topics.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

We'd love your feedback, so leave a comment!

If you feel an answer is not 100% Bible based, then leave a comment, and we'll be sure to review it.
Our aim is to share the Word and be true to it.